One thing I think Lewis Carroll did right in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was the way he wrote a book suitable for kids and still enjoyable for adults. The characters in the book are so amazing that you can’t help but fall in love with them. Stand out characters for me included the philosophical Cheshire Cat and the melancholy Mock Turtle. The whole story was witty and full of amusing puns and is considered one of the best examples of literary nonsense. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland overall is an enjoyable, well written and constructed tale and a surprisingly enjoyable book to read. I could possibly go on about the philosophy, the homages, or even the reflects to English society in the 19th century; but I will leave all that for the comments below. Read the book, enjoy the book and discuses the book. I really think this is one of those brilliant books that has so many elements worth discussing.
Belgian artist, René Magritte is one of my favourite surrealist painters. His paintings attempt to evoke emotion while never revealing the meaning of the weird art. ‘The Lovers’ (both pieces) are the most fascinating of his works – for me anyway. When I look at the two pieces the first thing that pops out is the fact that both people are yearning for love but are so oblivious to what is right in front of them.
This mentality is so common in today’s society. People are so self absorbed thatthese paintings always ring true. The Lovers have been interpreted many times and appears in many different mediums. Two modern rock albums come to mind straight away. The Mars Volta’s ‘Frances the Mute’ and Funeral for a Friend’s ‘Casually Dressed & Deep in Conversation’. The cover of Funeral for a Friend’s album is the more interesting of the two. If you look closely at the artwork you can see that the lovers are sitting on the rocks overlooking a storm’ representing the turmoils of life and how sometimes this gets in the way of love.
Of course with all art, people will interpret it differently; this is my interpretation and a little food for thought.
Recently I read Made In America by Bill Bryson, so I thought it would be appropriate to read Mother Tongue as well. Though there was a fair chunk of similar information in both books, Mother Tongue is just more relevant. While Made in America focused on the history of English in America; Mother Tongue focuses mainly on the history of English in general. Trying to cover questions like, “Why is there a ‘u’ in four and not in forty?” or “Why do we tell a lie and tell the truth?”
Bill Bryson does a great job of teaching and keeps the book interesting and sometimes humorous. Though the format and the style of the books are similar, I would recommend Mother Tongue over Made in America simply because the information is more relevant and covers all aspects of the English language.
Recommended for all English geeks, this book will give you a deeper understanding of the language as well as grammatical structures like amphibology. My wife might also be happy to hear that the book covers the topic of onomatopoeia.
I’ve been thinking a lot about flow and construction of sentences and whole paragraphs. Authors spend a fair amount of time on playing around with the words and sentence structure to find that all important flow and feel. It all comes down to how it sounds and reads on paper.
On paper, little things can really make a difference. Simple things like the term ‘had had’ which is acceptable English but on paper, doesn’t always look or sound right. Most of the time, the sentence works without the need for repeating the word.
I’ve been reading a fascinating book about what publishers look for in manuscripts. They look for any excuse to reject a manuscript and simple things, like two accompanying words starting with the same letter could be found sloppy. So it really is important to get the best manuscript possible. Rewriting is the most important and time consuming part of writing and wordsmiths probably spend most of that time making a sentence sound the best it can possibly be. I think writers can learn a lot from poets in this aspect.
It becomes very important to learn the proper use of semi-colons, colons, dashes and parentheses when you are playing around with sentence structure. Misusing one of them will disrupt the flow, and you may not notice it doesn’t sound right, when you read through later. Other things you need to look for are echoes, alliteration and resonance.
When we are at school, most English teachers taught us the importance of adjectives and adverbs. They taught us to try and be as descriptive as possible. Now as writers, we need to break this habit; but why? Here is what I’ve discovered.
Both the adjective and adverb are considered modifiers (adjectives modify nouns and adverbs, verbs). Typically they sound like good words to use but I have found, and most others may have also found, that they seem to drag out the sentence. I’m not saying to try and get rid of all adjectives and adverbs, just try to limit to only one modifier per noun or verb and if possible remove them all together. The reason I’ve found for this is that it just makes the writing tighter and flow more eloquently.
I know it’s hard to break the habit, but I do believe it will help your writing in the long run. Some things to remember and try;
In your writing try removing all adverbs and adjectives and see if the story still remains;
If needing an adjective or adverb, keep the most important one;
Experiment with your sentences. You will find interesting ways to tell the story and make the writing flow;
There is a common used saying when coming to writing “show, don’t tell”. The readers are usually smart enough to know what is happening (either by imagination or what has been said), eg; if it is a storm they will know it will also be dark, cold and wet. So at some point you will need to let the readers imagination do some of the work too.
Although I don’t live in America, it is obvious that they have had a big influence on the English language. Bill Bryson’s Made In America explores the history of America and the effects it had on the language. I found the most interesting parts to do with censorship in America, from titbit becoming tidbit, cockroach becoming roach and to the extreme case of political correction which wanted to stop the use of terms like blackeye and blacksmith (but interestingly enough, not blackout). I feel I’ve gained some valuable insight into why American English is different to the commonly used Queens’ English, while getting a history into commonly used terms. Bill Bryson writes in such a way that it makes this book easy to read and at times humorous, which I feel is what you want in a Non Fiction book.