Thursday, August 28, 2008

Old And New

At the writer's workshop I attended, we learned about the novel, Tom Jones, by Henry Fielding. I had heard of the book, but luckily had not read it. I use the term "luckily" because the instructor said that Fielding opens with twenty pages about the English countryside.

I have tried to read Melville, but he takes three pages to say something like, "The first mate was self-conscious because everybody knew he was poor." He used so many words! I try to write without using words.

By the time you get to Dashiell Hammett's The Maltese Falcon, many of those words are gone. Hammett leaves in enough detail to paint the picture, but does not try to dazzle the reader with prose.


My own experience and training with writing is heavy on showing, not telling, the reader the story, paring down the prose to keep the story moving. I have found readers, though, who are accustomed to, "West Varth was in the low lands of Hamfarth, where the Juberries bloom. The Juberries were the sweetest berries in the world, except for the JuJuberries."

I have not found many of those readers, but they are invariably lost in my writing. They're looking for Tom Jones, but they won't find him in the Snows of Kilimanjaro.

P. S.: Remember the part about writing without using words? That part was a joke.

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