This post is not necessarily going to win me any new friends. It might even offend a few people. And, please know, I do not claim to be the expert on writing. But…, I do read, and I read a lot. Not just books, but magazines, newspapers, on line material, like writing tutorials, articles, plus blogs, comments in blogs, etc. The majority of my time is spent writing and reading, and I believe I’ve done enough reading to spot this “thing” I’m going to talk about, this pet peeve of mine. I guess the point is, I’ve seen it enough to want to post about it.
First, we are all guilty of doing it. There isn’t a person out there who is currently writing their short story, novel, memoir, essay, whatever, that hasn’t done this at least once, maybe a lot, as in their entire piece. Second, sometimes when someone “says” something about it, (like this post here), it gives us writers a reminder, and perhaps we can go back and look at our work and recognize it. Yes, this is another guideline or rule writers should follow, but hey, there are only a gazillion, what’s one more?
So, here’s the issue. Have you ever read a book and thought, this sounds waaaaay over done? It reads like the writer is trying too hard to say what they want to say? They’ve decided that stating, “the sky that day was blue” is too simple, too plain. Maybe it is, but I’m not sure what to think if I read, “the sky that day, that vast endless space radiated a brilliant azure, as sharp as ice, a purplish tincture that looked cold and warm at the same time.” (wtf?) Um, no. IMHO, that’s trying too hard. I could settle for, “the sky that day was a crisp, beautiful blue .”
What about this one?
(Note: The sentences above I made up, but this next example I’m taking off another blog. It was posted as “anonymous” and since no one will know who that person is and I doubt that person reads my blog anyway, I decided it’s fair game to use. This, of course, is not representative of this person’s work, but, if they post a simple comment and write like this, I can only imagine what their work must be like.)
The question on the other blog was “What do you read with?” and had to do with a writer reading their own work out loud to themselves) This answer was provided by Anonymous:
Yes, with my ears…AND imagination. My imagination breaks loose when I read. It glides over the words like a plane on a runway, when the writing is good. I’m going, going, going, then lifting off, taking flight into the writer’s world….standing in a fully formed place, watching the people, all of my senses engaged. I’m feeling at home before I find myself back on the page, again, taking up the writer’s words where I left off.
I’ll just apologize in advance to Anonymous, but, for Pete’s sake, really? I’m sorry, but to me, this just seems like TRYING TOO HARD. I don’t know. Perhaps some of you reading will recognize not only this question, but the response. Maybe you agree, or maybe you don’t and thought it beautiful. Our tastes differ, and we’ll leave it at that.
What I have read about the craft of writing is, you do not want “dear reader” to be able to tell you are writing. That sounds stupid…, of course they know somebody wrote the darn book, but by that I mean, you want them engaged in the story. You want them caught up in what’s happening, not focusing on the writing. And as I said above, we all do it, hell, I just did it yesterday…but, I recognized it. I slapped my head, and said, “STOP. You’re writing like a pompous ass…,” or something like that.
This is my own pet peeve. I try very hard…, to not try very hard, you know?
What about you? Do you recognize when a writer has tried too hard? And, do you recognize it when YOU do it?