Thursday, April 19, 2012

I'm thinking more about prose and diction these days than I have since I was in writing classes in college, and maybe more than I did even then.

The immediate cause of it is reading The Hunger Games. It's jumping out at me just how elementary the writing style is. Nothing wrong with that for what it is, a kid's book. Also, I saw the movie before I even started the book, so that has aborted any suspense. But even so, I still find the writing style lacking. It tells the reader a lot without showing much. The first-person, present-tense voice has some advantages - I can see how it'll help a lot of later scenes - but isn't doing much in the first few chapters, and just seems lazy. And the setting seems too clich├ęd and simplistic and black-and-white. Everyone's starving, the Peacekeepers are an Orwellian force, Katniss has to be heartless to survive, blah blah blah, the system sucks, I get it. A friend informs me that later books get more complicated, but I might not get that far.

Again, THG is just a kid's book so there's nothing wrong with keeping things simple, and I don't want to give the impression that it's so bad that it alone has reminded me of reading other student writers in college. I've been thinking more and more like this for a while. I don't know whether this is a gradual evolution of thinking more analytically about writing over the years, but if it was inspired by anything specific, that inspiration was H.P. Lovecraft.

I started deliberately seeking him out about three years ago for two reasons: a historical interest in how and why he was so influential, and all his work is in the public domain, which is free or very cheap in e-book form. But in the process of reading his stuff, I think I absorbed a lot about the minutiae of writing. Love him or hate him - and his writing is indeed uneven, and the best thing I can say about all the racism is that sometimes it's unintentionally funny - he definitely has a unique, compelling writing style.

Gibbering horrors made me think about about how to write far more than poetry or soliliquies ever did - why "gibbering" instead of "babbling" or even "rambling"? Because of the sound? The etymology? The tiny nuance of difference in meaning or length? The topic itself? If nothing else, this seems like a good argument in favor of broadening your horizons. (Ironically, Lovecraft hated that.) I'm not saying this has made me a better writer, but I do think it's made me a better critic, and more able to appreciate good writing.

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