Thursday, September 15, 2011

"It was a dark and stormy night..."

The weather in my neighborhood is balmy after days of summer heat. In the middle of the heat I discovered "it was a dark and stormy night." Well, I discovered the Bulwer-Lytton website, sponsors of the contest for hysterical writing. That's the way I describe it.

As writers we get to play with language and can be forgiven when we run away with them. Some of the examples are from well-known writers. I guess the level of hysteria is in the eye of the reader.

Here's this year's Sci-fi winner, Greg Homer (turns out he's from my neighborhood):
Morgan ‘Bamboo’ Barnes, Star Pilot of the Galaxia (flagship of the Solar Brigade), accepted an hors d’oeuvre from the triangular-shaped platter offered to him from the Princess Qwillia—lavender-skinned she was and busty, with two of her four eyes what Barnes called ‘bedroom eyes’—and marveled at how on her planet, Chlamydia-5, these snacks were called ‘Hi-Dee-Hoes’ but on Earth they were simply called Ritz Crackers with Velveeta.
After reading a few of these, I noticed ho my own prose was moving toward the purple, overwrought, or otherwise too clever for its own good.

Here's a question for you? How do you know when a writer has gone too far? It is a tricky thing, especially in spec fic, to keep things clear while creating interesting worlds. When I'm in a bookstore, looking for a new writer, I'll pick up the book, open it to the middle, and if I can't pronounce the names I shut it and put it back. That's my criterion. What's yours?

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