Death, not a popular subject unless you’re writing a best seller

Friday, 4 May, 2012

Plot lines

An analysis of the titles making up last year’s Man Booker Prize longlist reveals that topics of death, followed by love, make for a sure-fire recipe for literary success.

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If the story is true, if the prose is clean and honest…

Friday, 16 March, 2012

“Wuthering Heights”, “Huckleberry Finn”, and “Anna Karenina” were among US author Ernest Hemingway’s favourite books.

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If we can figure out what they did right we might learn something

Friday, 16 March, 2012

This is how you write says John Steinbeck, author of “The Grapes of Wrath”, to name one of his titles.

Abandon the idea that you are ever going to finish. Lose track of the 400 pages and write just one page for each day, it helps. Then when it gets finished, you are always surprised.

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Great expectations may take quite some time to be realised

Tuesday, 21 February, 2012

A number of novels written by English author Charles Dickens, that are among his best known titles today including “Great Expectations”, “A Christmas Tale”, and “A Tale of Two Cities”, fared very poorly when first published, likely selling not much more than 100,000 copies cumulatively up until his death in 1870.

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Literature sounds better with your passing notes

Tuesday, 14 February, 2012

Years ago when I was learning to play the guitar a tutor told me a note played out of scale, in other words, erroneously, was called a “passing note”. It was another way of saying minor mistakes don’t matter, especially as very few people are likely to notice the presence of a single errant note among hundreds of others.

I don’t know why I remembered about passing notes, or even that I once played guitar (a Nirvana-ised/grunge cover of the Beatles And I Love Her of mine was a career highlight… but this was the 90s), while reading through a list of common grammar mistakes, but it could be some of these syntax errors resemble passing notes.

Such an assertion will doubtless bewilder linguistics virtuosos, in much the same way, I imagine, that grunge covers of iconic 60s acts stood to unhinge guitar tutors, but the apparent misuse of words such as “nor”, “moot”, or even “impactful”, could, arguably, be attributed to changes in the use of language over time.

Even if such a time period is no more than five minutes. Even if “impactful” is the bastard twin of “irregardless”. Even if “who” should substitute “whom” without hesitation, as it is so deprecated people will think you’re writing from the seventeenth century if you use it. Let’s call them literature’s passing notes. This website is laced with them.

Yes, that’s right, that coming from a former homecoming high school first-quartile English student, if you could ever believe that, irregardless of whether those grades were largely due to the fiction (that sometimes posed as non-fiction, but that’s another story) I used to write.

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William Shakespeare, playwright, poet, and… gangster?

Monday, 21 November, 2011

Roland Emmerich’s recent film Anonymous was based on the notion that someone else wrote the works of English playwright William Shakespeare.

Even though the idea holds little water as far as many literary historians are concerned, there is other evidence suggesting that even though Shakespeare was who we think he was, he was nonetheless involved, unwittingly perhaps, in criminal activity, as at the time, the theatre was far from respectable.

As a newcomer to the big city, Hotson realized, Shakespeare was obliged to begin his career on a lowly rung, working for disreputable theater people – which, at that time, was generally regarded as akin to working in a brothel. Theaters were meeting places for people whose interest in the opposite sex did not extend to marriage; they were also infested with crooks, pimps and prostitutes, and attracted an audience whose interest in the performance on stage was often minimal. This, of course, explains why the Puritans were so quick to ban public entertainments when they got the chance.

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Remixing the written word has turned writers into programmers

Friday, 30 September, 2011

By re-purposing existing written works, and patchwriting, the weaving together of excerpts from varying sources to produce new literary works, some literary critics say writers today are more like programmers than anything else.

The prominent literary critic Marjorie Perloff has recently begun using the term “unoriginal genius” to describe this tendency emerging in literature. Her idea is that, because of changes brought on by technology and the Internet, our notion of the genius – a romantic, isolated figure – is outdated. An updated notion of genius would have to center around one’s mastery of information and its dissemination. Perloff has coined another term, “moving information,” to signify both the act of pushing language around as well as the act of being emotionally moved by that process. She posits that today’s writer resembles more a programmer than a tortured genius, brilliantly conceptualizing, constructing, executing, and maintaining a writing machine.

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I actually do my best work when I’m insulting fellow authors

Tuesday, 28 June, 2011

If you thought writing wasn’t dog eat dog sort of work then you’d be quite mistaken.

Truman Capote on Jack Kerouac: “That’s not writing, that’s typing.”

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Opening lines adapted especially for the Facebook generation

Thursday, 23 June, 2011

Opening lines from a number of classic novels re-imagined for contemporary readers.

Alice was beginning to tire of sitting by her sister on the bank. She took out her iPhone and played Angry Birds for the next three hours.

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If conflict drives all storylines then there is only one basic plot

Thursday, 13 January, 2011

How many basic literary plots are there? Depending on how a plot is defined, there could be anywhere from one through to 36 basic storylines.

Attempts to find the number of basic plots in literature cannot be resolved any more tightly than to describe a single basic plot. Foster-Harris claims that all plots stem from conflict. He describes this in terms of what the main character feels: “I have an inner conflict of emotions, feelings…. What, in any case, can I do to resolve the inner problems?” (p. 30-31) This is in accord with the canonical view that the basic elements of plot revolve around a problem dealt with in sequence: “Exposition – Rising Action – Climax – Falling Action – Denouement”.

Via Lone Gunman.

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