Spin the wheel and twist the thread.
Is it more useful now?
Or is it still stuck
On a wheel going nowhere?
Like a tire in the snow.
And everyone tells you
Revving the engine
Won’t get you anywhere
The image comes from Wiki Commons. Public domain image.
The dishes need to be washed.
The laundry, washed and dried.
The mail needs to be retrieved, opened, assessed, and – invariably – thrown away.
An email needs to be sent to a to a relative, to a friend.
An order cancelled, an order made.
The accounts need to be checked and adjusted and checked again, with as little disappointment as possible.
The carpet needs to be vacuumed.
The shelves need to be dusted.
A batch of cookies need to be made for no other reason than that the decision was made earlier in the week. They serve no real purpose.
And the dishes will need to be washed again.
The homespun pedicure needs to be touched up, though the open toe shoes are almost never worn. Especially this time of year.
The laundry needs be folded.
The houseplants need to be watered. One needs to be replanted, lest its roots be left to strangle. Eventually.
That spot on the floor will need to be vacuumed again.
The laundry needs to be put away.
The bathroom needs to be scrubbed.
Things need to be accomplished.
And somewhere in there, somewhere in the madness of the list, there needs to be time.
There needs to be time for her to think and create. Time to absorb and exude all that the list is meant to enhance. Or facilitate.
And yet, all the time there is is readily eaten by the list.
Realizing this, she struck a match.
And burnt it.
Today’s theme: Balance. There’s a fine line between not enough, and way too much.
Therefore, it is best to avoid:
- Lazy word repetition. This is not to be confused with purposeful word repetition, which creates emphasis or a rhythmic effect. Lazy repetition is using the same word more often than necessary out of a lack of effort. It really bogs down the prose, making it boring and stilted. Changing things up with a synonym (or maybe a pronoun) can go a long way. Just be careful not to over-do it (see: Thesaurus addict).
- Not Great: The sun shown high over head, beating down directly on their heads. Sweat dripped from their foreheads.
- Better: The sun shown high over head, beating directly down on them. Sweat dripped from their brows.
- Look-at-my-big-word syndrome. I like big words, but I prefer them to be used judiciously. Unless, of course, you want to be the literary equivalent of they guy with the huge, extra-grumbly truck and a really small…never mind.
- Not Great: It provided ample serviceability.
- Better: It was useful. (Please note that this one largely depends on context, and overall tone. The ‘not great’ version is appropriate if you have a ‘high style’ throughout the piece.)
- Clown-car sentences. This is when someone tries to squeeze all of their ideas into one long, complicated sentence. They stack clause upon clause, sprinkling commas about like parade candy. It may be grammatically correct, but it’s like having twelve circus clowns stuffed into a tiny car. Nobody knows what’s going on in there – Who’s hand is this? Where did my shoe go? Splitting it up into a few shorter sentences will be much easier to understand.
- Not Great: Before inserting tab A into slot B, ensure that, underneath panel C, between the cables, thumbscrew D has been secured.
- Better: Between the cables under panel C, locate thumbscrew D. Tighten thumbscrew D as needed, ensuring that it is secure. Then insert tab A into slot B.
- Details for the sake of details. Some detail is great, but if your piece sounds more like a catalog (and isn’t actually a catalog) you’ve gone too far. So before you tell me exactly how tall that character is, or how many bolts are holding the table together, ask yourself: Does it matter? Does it add anything (of substance) to the piece? If you don’t say ‘yes’ immediately, you probably want to find something else to say.
- Not Great: Phillip was 47 years old, six foot three and had a broad, barrel chest. He wore faded blue jeans and a white t-shirt, tinged slightly yellow, that was stained with oil, grease, and sweat from a busy day working on in the garage.
- Better: Phillip was middle aged, built like a Clydesdale, and smelt like the garage. It had been a busy day.
- Thesaurus addict. This is the flip-side of lazy word repetition, and cousin to look-at-my-big-word syndrome. Yes, you want to vary your wording to keep things interesting. However, if you find yourself using five different terms for the same thing – it’s too much. Over-variation sounds unnatural and distracts from what you’re really trying to say.
- Not Great: The noon-day sun shone high over head, at it’s zenith. It beat down on them from it’s position aloft.
- Better: The sun shone high over head, beating down on them.
The picture is from Wiki Commons. Public domain image.
The quiet moments underneath
The morning light on sleeping streets
Between the walls of cheaply rented rooms
When I am preparing
All the things I mean to do
And you are in the bedroom
Or else sitting in a chair
A million miles away in thought
And I, the same the other way
Just like goldfish
In a second story bowl
We glide past one another
Unobtrusive or unspeaking
Swimming little rings around our rooms
We could be strangers if it were not
For our intertwining lives
Like loving vines
Wrapped around each other
To become a single living maze
In these quiet moments
Between the cups of coffee
And sheets of shopping lists
Between the schedules and checkbooks
And all the doings of a day
In the moments
Between the fray
When we neither have to say
In those quiet moments, know
I love you best.
Which story am I in?
Is a puzzle often posed
As one half of my brain
To the other.
Am I the fickle Kathy
Who treats a Heathcliff badly;
Or am I the loyal Heathcliff
Am I the comic hero
Like the likable Tamino;
Or am I just the sidekick,
Perhaps I’m Don Quixote
Jousting windmills even though they
Are not the fearsome giants
Could I be the mighty Oberon
Manipulating lovers with a faun;
Or am I just the honest Puck
Who gets it wrong?
Well, no, I’m none of them
Unless I’m all of them at once
As life’s more multifaceted
Than any fiction
I find I don’t fear spiders
If I give them each a name
Johnny, Susan, Carol, Melvin
It’s the sound that makes them tame
They can twirl up by the ceiling
Or in a corner of the tub
And I’ll watch them without screaming
But that’s, of course, the rub
Because if I’m not afraid of spiders
They’re that much easier to squish…
So here lies Johnny, Susan, Carol, Melvin
Flushed and sleeping with the fish
[Originally published at BookBear.info on September 18, 2014.]
Ok, so maybe ‘love’ is a strong word. Especially when it comes to my view of young adult literature (YA). But I’ve made considerable improvement since the pang of betrayal I felt when my local bookstore christened not one, but two shelves with the label “teen paranormal romance.” I hope I didn’t snort my dismissal too loudly because I’ve recently reached a sense of acceptance. A distinct lack of worry. An end of bitterness. It dawned on me that the popularity of YA is not the end of the world.
I know, I was surprised too.
For me, the first hurdle was a matter of content. When I think of YA, I typically think of fluff. Supernatural dystopian teen-angst laced with a hefty dose of schmaltz. Given the recent glut of moody vampire love, my typical gut reaction had been one of ‘ew’. But perhaps that was a little harsh.
First, let’s consider the audience. Young adult literature is intended for young adults. Teenagers. Maybe early twenties, why not? Is there anything actually wrong with writing novels geared toward their age group? Of course not. It can help fill that awkward gap between The Berenstain Bears and Brothers Karamazov. So that’s fine.
Next, let’s look at the style. YA has a tendency to be…well, not all that intellectually challenging. Then again, neither are large swaths of pop fiction, science fiction, fantasy, and romance. But they are entertaining. And while I enjoy wading into the deep end of existentialism as much as the guy, I’ll be the first to admit that even the most refined connoisseur of serious literature needs to pick up something lighter once in a while. So, is there anything wrong with writing entertaining stories suited to a teenage palette? No.
Besides, YA has never claimed to be literary fiction. Not that I know of, anyway. And for those of us who might have hoped otherwise, there’s always the possibility of a gateway-drug effect. You know the argument: it’s a slippery slope from Twilight to Interview with a Vampire to classics like (gasp!) Dracula… And from there its only a matter of time before they’re approached by shadowy figures like us, hawking hard-core Tolstoy from beneath our proverbial trench-coats, whilst our neck-tattoos proclaim “Prince Andre is my homeboy.” Do you really want that to happen to our youth?!
I sure as hell hope you do.
And yet, this notion soothes only about half of my reservations. That’s because, as everyone knows, teenagers aren’t the only ones reading YA. So what about the young-adult devotees who are no longer, shall we say, ‘young’? What about the soccer-mom obsessed with The Hunger Games? The thirty-four year old man who touts Harry Potter as the pinnacle of his literary experience? Not long ago I would have twisted my nose in the air and scoffed my disapproval. But no longer.
And it’s because of those two bookshelves.
While I might not have much use for teen paranormal romance, it does have an undeniable following. As does YA in general. But this isn’t a collapse of the reading world – it’s an expansion.
I have seen the passion with which YA readers devour books. I have seen the excitement and the fandom. And in short, I was unafraid. Reading for pleasure is becoming more inclusive. Anything that can inspire an interest in reading for those who would have otherwise abandoned the library, is something I can get behind. Just look at the long lines of people at the premiere of a popular YA sequel. Could such devotion to the art of the written word really be bad?
I don’t think so.
So there it is. Goodbye pretension, hello readers. The popularity of YA is not pushing the hands of the doomsday clock ever closer to midnight. Not by a long shot. For many, YA is the way into books – the spark – and I for one intend to fan the flames…cheering as it explodes.
We’ll read again. Don’t know where. Don’t know when. But I know we’ll read again, some sunny day…
I forgot to buy the coffee
I hope you don’t mind much
Though I don’t feel much like making it
With the cold crept in and such
Did you put away the pizza?
I know I didn’t do it
And television, was it turned off?
It was good but I slept right through it
Good Lord, it’s ten already
No, three quarters after nine
I suppose we should get going soon
But our snoozing suits me fine
If we were perfect, we’d be up already
Or prob’bly ages ago
Getting on with this and that
And herding ducks into a row
We could be much more efficient
With our days all timed and planned
Never stopping for a daydream
Ever minding the running sand
But I prefer that we’re imperfect
In the dim mid-morning glow
As we lay like sleepy figures