Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Writer's tics... and finding my lobster

Lobster by Stacy Lynn Baum on Flickr

I've been thinking about writing tics. In fact, I've been thinking about one specific tic that seems to be cropping up in everything I read. I'm finding it really very annoying. It is this:

"And yet... and yet,"

I know. It's a petty thing. There's nothing really bad about it. Used correctly, it's quite an intelligently snazzy conjunction. It has been used by such literary greats as Lewis Carroll and Oscar Wilde. Indeed, until the overkill set in, I'd aspired to its confident little stylistic rhythm. And yet... and yet, this is the very reason it has started to get under my skin. It is like that person who talks too much, only pausing at the point at which you can't interrupt, and then presses on with another self important stream. You know how Mrs. Thatcher used to? It is tired. Overused. The sparkle has gone.

Two other things that I'm reading a lot in books that I'm Bored Bored Bored of are: writers writing novels about writers, characters who are writers, navel gazing novels about writing...(you get the picture) and things 'nestling' (phones nestling in bags, chocolates nestling in choc boxes, objects nestling in drawers) Its true sense has been lost. Please say it differently.

But, um, it would be unfair to criticise without acknowledging some of my own tics, too. I'm probably more annoyed by my own, to be honest. The worst offenders? There are always birds in my stories, usually sparrows. Often dead... My characters have names like Bea, Frank and Pete, an unhealthily narrow menage trois of names, clearly, who frequent 1920's styled independent coffee shops and drink far too many cappuccinos. When they eat out, they often order something stewy or casseroled that they dip bread in. They play with their food. And man, are they clumsy? Unable to keep the wine in their glasses. Also, they smile at each other. Far, far too much.

This week I'm trying to write something really really fresh. I heard a fantastic story on BBC Radio 4 last week.  Jenni Mills read her story 'Cleaning the Silver', an actually chilling tale with visceral descriptions of eating lobster. The lobster was a tremendous hook into a dark narrative read for International Woman's Day. It was inspiring and has set me searching for my lobster; my fresh hook. Writing tics be ware...

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