Sunday, January 31, 2010
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
“His white shirt was sleeveless, and he wore it unbuttoned, so that the smooth white skin of his throat flowed uninterrupted over the marble contours of his chest, his perfect musculature no longer merely hinted at."
“He had on a loose robe of most exquisite awhiteness. It was a whiteness beyond anything earthly I had ever seen; nor do I believe that any earthly thing could be made to appear so exceedingly white and brilliant. His hands were naked, and his arms also, a little above the wrist; so, also, were his feet naked, as were his legs, a little above the ankles. His head and neck were also bare."
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
A hundred miles south of L.A., a school district is meeting to decide whether or not to ban the Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary. What? That was my reaction too. If a dictionary can get banned from a public school in the United States, then all books are in serious trouble. Apparently, the book was immediately removed from classroom shelves when the content was deemed "age in-appropriate" for classes kindergarten through eighth grade.
The hysteria began with a parent complaint. Supposedly, a man's child came across the words, "oral sex," while perusing the book. However, the Superintendent claims this is not the sole reason for the removal, but after further investigation by school administrators, collectively the group discovered a number of referenced words they found offensive.
I imagine the book is full of offensive words all clearly defined so each student will learn the meaning and choose to use it or not. If we print only the 'good' words, will this stop the use or rather, misuse of offensive words? I think not! To simply deny access to information is not education or responsible parental protection.
Did the powers that be or rather make decisions for our education flunk government class? There is something called the First Amendment that seems to be an appropriate card to toss upon the table in this situation. It's the English Dictionary! Are you kidding me?
Secondly, I must agree with the Huffington Post. If we're burning the dictionaries then we should examine the curriculum for seventh grade America history and just skip over that offensive section about the Bill of Rights.
Monday, January 25, 2010
The Creeping Pestilence of Clichés
Recently, I reviewed a story and in my comments I referred to the use of clichés. It got me thinking about what is a cliché and how as an author and book reviewer, I use and address these dratted buggers.
Clichés crawl into everyone's work and articles. Even the best selling author Dan Brown littered his novel the Da Vinci Code with clichéd descriptions. I ask, no, I yell, "Where was his editor!" I say, shame for not killing them with a red pen. The clichés in his story telling are so abundant that if stripped, I'm not certain much would be left on the page. If nothing else, I suggest using the novel for a fun twist on an old drinking game. When you read a cliché, DRINK! You'll need a liver transplant by chapter two.
Anyhow, by definition, a cliché is not merely a phrase used by lots of people, but a phrase that conveys some sort of idea or message. A cliché is an overused metaphor.
Here's some advice on how to test if something is a cliché:
1. Read the first half of the sentence, then ask, "do I know how the sentence ends?"
Example, "The gene pool could use a little chlorine." Is not a cliché because when asked, "The gene pool could use what?" The entire room doesn't groan in unison the answer.
Example, "At the crack of...." most people will immediately say, "dawn." Therefore, the phrase is cliché. Need another example? "Stubborn as a...?" mule most likely.
Clichés are familiar and immediately conjure images. They're easy to pull from and even tempting to write down when a writer becomes tired or hurried. They often appear in early drafts when writers are trying to keep the flow of the story moving and run out of creative, original metaphors to describe a character's physical attributes, movements or even surroundings. This is fine, but get out your red pen and strike through when editing. This is the time when you should slow down, re-think and insert something a bit more original. Don't be afraid to hurt your own feelings. Every writer does it. We all make the mistake, but a good writer makes the corrections, or at the very least, tries to recognize these creepy little bastards.
Anti-cliché Some good advice is to exterminate these pests by using the anti-cliché. Here is an example I pulled from another site:
"A really dumb cliché like what goes around comes around deserves to be mistreated. The anti-cliché is a cliché that is twisted into a different shape, but is still recognizable. For example, you could take what goes around comes around and change what comes around to probably should, to make what goes around probably should. The meaning is significantly changed, but it is better to be thought of as cantankerous than as a bad writer."