Nat Case ncase at
Fri Aug 10 19:26:11 EDT 2001

On Fri, 10 Aug 2001, Sally Odgers wrote

>|Quite a lot taught in writing class is (usually) wrong. I believe it comes
>|from Maybes being taught as Absolutes. Most people like Absolutes. Most
>|people don't like Sometimes - or else why would there be so much fuss about
>|the "ough" combination in the English language?

deborah replied

>they are good guidelines, though.  You have to start with "show,
>don't tell" just as you have to start with the five-paragraph
>essay.  Then you just have to remember to teach people that they
>can certainly break those guidelines, if they understand why they
>are doing so and what the effect is.

The point I was trying to make, which Sally made from a different 
direction, is that these rules are time-and-place dependent. We in 
fin-de-millenie [?]  US are raised on Strunk and White's ELEMENTS OF 
STYLE, which is a great guideline for standard American journalistic 
writing, and for clear inter-office correspondence, but is pretty 
limiting if you want to write, for example, like Jane Austen or 
Charles Dickens.

To me, the idea of rules is fine, but it is very helpful to know that 
those rules are not handed down by God, or even by the Western 
Cizilization fairy. They are specific to the time and place we are 
writing, and need to be looked at as tools for whatever purpose we 
are training for. It would be helpful for writing teachers to 
say,"These rules are very important, because most of the everday 
writing you will do in your life will be improved by the clarity and 
brevity they impart. Be aware. however, that considerable variation 
in these rules, or indeed utter abandonment of them, may be in order 
when you write epic poetry, metrical drama, or comic book scripts."

DWJ has noted that in her childhood, she read very little modern 
fiction, and indeed cut her eyeteeth on such monsters as THE FAERIE 

Deborah's point is akin to that line from "The Sage of Theare":
"'If rules are a framework to climb around in, why not climb right 
out,' says the Sage of Theare." I think it's interesting how that 
epigram means somewhat different things to the main character in that 
book (whose name is on the tip of my tongue, but I'm not going to 
lick the keyboard) and the reader. Our hero sees it in terms of his 
own immediate net of rules, the rules that in effect define his 
world. To us, for whom this world is exotic, we can see that climbing 
out of any framework, including our own, can give you the perspective 
of viewing other frameworks as in a general sense, equivalent to our 
"home" framework. It's an elegant piece of construction on DWJ's part.

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