Tag Archives: literary offenses

How to Gum Up Your Story

Image result for images of orator on a soapbox

It doesn’t matter whether you’re writing a fantasy, a murder mystery, or any other kind of novel. The surest way to gum it up is to have an agenda besides just telling the story.

Yesterday we watched an episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit because Amanda Plummer had an award-winning part in it, playing a schizophrenic who’d been the victim of a sexual assault. She was good, all right, although the rest of the acting was kind of wooden and mechanical: sort of like what you’d expect from Hollywood screenwriters who think, “This is the way New York cops talk–like puppets.”

But what was really wrong with it was the show’s fetish for “diversity.” Because of a need to represent every identity group in New York, the script had to accommodate a bewildering parade of characters–and even then they left out African pygmies and transgender types. The story staggered under its burden of identity politics, and we got the impression that watching this show on a regular basis could get quite tiresome.

“Oh! But this or that group will be offended if we don’t include a character representing it! We’ve got to be inclusive!”

You can’t tell any kind of worthwhile story if you’re standing on a soapbox.


Literary Crimes: Anachronisms

Are these cave men looking for the strike zone?

Let’s say you’re writing an epic novel of the events leading up to Noah’s Flood, thousands of years ago.

Can you envision any circumstances which would induce you to employ the phrase, “strike zone”?

Well, yeah, if you want to remind the reader that he’s not really visiting the ancient world, but just reading a stupid book about it.

My friend “Abner,” in his amazingly successful novelizations of Biblical events, resorts to every anachronism he can think of. Here are a few that light up the second book in his series.

“It depends on what ‘is’ is.”

“Hope and change”

“Fundamental transformation of society”

God accused of “colonialism, imperialism, sexism, speciesism” and also described as “macho”

“I feel your pain”

“You didn’t build that”

“The 99 percent”

“We”–the speaker is an archangel–“saved your rear ends”

All right, let’s be fair: he has stopped short of equipping Adam and Eve, in the Garden of Eden, with cell phones. Well, who would they call? And a cell phone might be a nuisance if pockets haven’t been invented yet.

Strike zone? Macho?

Please, whoever is out there thinking about writing a novel–if you’re writing fantasy or historical fiction, please do not riddle it with stupid and inane anachronisms that won’t make a lick of sense to a reader ten years from now but which surely will, for the time being, remind the current reader that all he’s doing is reading a mutton-headed comic book without pictures.

I must point out that I am paid to read these books. Otherwise I could not endure it.


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