Rules For Writers

It is generally good for a laugh to say that a professional writer has no rules. It’s not true, of course, and a number of great writers have made lists of rules which they follow with varying degrees of faithfulness. The lists might be summed up by saying that the One Great Rule of Writing is to communicate clearly. Therein lies the rub, for communication involves much more than conveying data from one brain to another; a laundry list can do that. Writers, especially fiction writers, have a host of associations connected to those data, ranging from subtle or not so subtle implications to the deepest emotions, and conveying those is a real challenge.

Available tools for that deeper and broader communication vary with the language, which partially accounts for the difficulty of translation. English has an especially wide vocabulary and variety of idioms to aid in the task (and to confuse the foreign learner). This is reflected in differences in style and usage from one English speaking country to another, American versus British for instance, and in changes over time; the writing of Hawthorne is strikingly different from Hemingway, or even Twain, though all worked in American English. Quite different products, each well communicated.

Orwell

I recently ran across an excellent discussion of the uses and abuses of language, specifically referencing political writing, authored by none other than George Orwell, one of the best writers of the 20th century. He includes some egregious examples which may evoke great groans of laughter. A link to his essay is below, but first, his list of rules:

  1. Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
  2. Never use a long word where a short one will do.
  3. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
  4. Never use the passive where you can use the active.
  5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
  6. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

Good rules. Let us pledge to follow them more fully. And here’s that link:

http://www.orwell.ru/library/essays/politics/english/e_polit/

 

Best Wishes!

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Cirque du Soleil’s “O”

Cirque du Soleil’s “O”

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We had occasion recently to see Cirque du Soleil in Las Vegas. They have several shows at different venues; we went to “O” at the Bellagio. I had expected to see acrobats and dancers, not realizing that this show is water-based. Not only were the performers excellent acrobats and dancers, contortionists and mimes, gymnasts and actors,  they were world class divers, swimmers, and water-dancers as well. What a show!

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No doubt there was a greater feeling of mystery for those seated below us; we were in the balcony, but in the front so there was nothing but a large amount of air between us and the performance. When an acrobat descended from the ceiling on a chandelier at the beginning of the show, she was right in front of us. Wow!

The minor disadvantage of being high enough for spotlights to sometimes shine in our eyes was balanced by the ability to look down into the pool and see scuba divers directing traffic and supplying oxygen beneath the surface.

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Which brings me to another topic–engineering. This is a remarkable stage which one minute is deep enough to accommodate very high divers and the next is a solid surface for dancers and gymnasts to glide, twirl, or roll across. It is one thing to have a mobile stage which goes up and down, with portions that move this way and that, but quite another to move thousands of gallons of water at the same time. Bravo to the engineers, builders, and stage managers.

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Ticket prices were expensive for a little farm boy like me, though very much in line with other Vegas shows. Our balcony tickets were over $100 apiece. Nevertheless, it was well worth it to see this incredible show, a once in a lifetime experience. “O” is supposed to have a plot, by the way, all about the cycle of life and human history or something like that. Feel free to try to figure it out–the souvenir program may help. The story is very continental European, that is to say, French, hence subtle. It doesn’t really matter. The show is fantastic whatever the plot may be.

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How is that even possible? Really?

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The Lantern Light Festival

 

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We decided to celebrate the New Year by attending the Lantern Light Festival at the Puyallup State Fair Grounds on the evening of January first. It was a gorgeous display, mixing Chinese and Western themes in a beautiful blend of color and light.

The only problem was the temperature. It is an outdoor program and we were freezing the whole time, literally, except for a brief reprieve from the weather indoors at the Fair Scone stand. (Yes, yes, I know our 31 degrees is nothing compared to what is happening in the Midwest and East Coast, but still . . . ) We only caught a few minutes of the acrobat/dance performances; we simply could not stay outside that long. Our hearts go out to the performers.

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The Lantern Light Festival was scheduled to run from 24 November 2017 through 7 January 2018, but has been extended through 14 January. All in all, a most memorable evening and well worth the time to see it. Be sure to bundle up. Maybe next time they could do this in summer.

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For more details, click here.