Words, Sounds, Pictures

Melissa Proffitt Melissa at Proffitt.com
Sun Nov 18 23:47:36 EST 2001

On Tue, 13 Nov 2001 02:41:20 -0000, Ven wrote:

>Melissa replied
>> A lot of people I've heard complaining about Bujold's writing style are
>> the ones who insist on an intrinsically beautiful prose style, very
>> literary, where you'd want to read the book just because the words sound
>> pretty.
>To be fair, prettiness is not the only nor even a neccessary 
>attribute of beautiful prose.

I didn't think, at the time, that "pretty" was a disparaging word, but I
suppose it sort of is in the above context.  What I mean is that for some
readers, aesthetics is important enough that it trumps storytelling.  And
it's going to be different for each reader (though I believe there's a
certain commonality to prose aesthetics).

>  I suppose it all depends on what you're comparing her writing to.
>>  But I'm in a mean-spirited mood, so I think also it's people who've
>> learned just enough about writing to be highly critical of "errors".  It
>> took me years to figure out I was just offending people when I did that. 
>> :)
>This was the problem the original critic was having, see below.
>> On the other hand, Glen Engel-Cox, someone I
>> only know from the AlexLit board a few years back, once posted a detailed
>> analysis of the first chapter of _Mirror Dance_ and all the mistakes in
>> it.  

>Lol. I think Mr Engel Cox may have been cross posting
>because it was just that detailed analysis of Mirror Dance that 
>began the rec arts sf discussion.

Did he post the text to the list itself, or just the link?  The link was
what he posted to AlexLit way back when.  It was a long time ago.  I bet he
hauls it out every so often when the argument comes up.  :)

>1. Infodumps/ Frontloading: refers to  large chunks of exposition 
>clogging up the beginning of a story in this case a lot of backstory 
>and background explaining where Miles is and what happened 
>before Miles woke up in sickbay.
>Conclusion: guilty but constraints of series writing provide 
>considerablle mitigation.

And she's better at handling it than many other writers of series, in my

>2. Said Bookisms: use of unneccessary/inappropiate synonyms for 
>said. Apparently at one time people really did think "said" was to 
>be avoided to the extent of publishing lists of these synonyms...One should, so says the 
>TCL, be able to convey tone of voice through the cadence of the 
>words, and particularly avoid cliched and absurd synonyms for said.

In literary fiction this is still strongly emphasized.  It was the pet peeve
of my second creative writing teacher, who pointed out the absurdity of such
constructions as "she vociferated."  I think it's a good thing to keep in
mind, but certainly not verboten.

>3. Clumsy, cliched or nonsensical phrases: GEC highlighted a 
>number of these, for example, in sick bay an anxious tech took 
>samples of "every fluid his body could be made to exude."
>Various people had fun commenting on the absurdity of literally 
>extracting tears, pus and other things too nauseating to remember 
>in a routine examination.
>Conclusion: LMB is making extensive use of indirect reported 
>thought, the story is told very tightly in Miles' point of view and thus 
>"every fluid etc" is a Milesism and thus allowed.

This was the one I thought he got wrong, for the above reason.

>Yeah, I'm with the LMB enthusiasts, but found thios a fascinating 
>discussion of how different pepole read texts and write them.

Same here.

>The truth will make ye fret
>Terry Pratchett, The Truth.

The truth shall make ye Fred.

Melissa Proffitt

(don't you just love Sacharissa's ability to write headlines?)
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