Writing Habits

A friend and co-worker asked me at the beginning of the week if I had ever read The Giver.  I hadn’t.  Although both of my boys had to read it for school and I generally try to read what they’re reading, I had never read the story.  She told me she wanted to talk to somebody about the ending, because it’s open to a couple of different interpretations.  Intrigued, I started reading the story a couple of days ago.

I have two problems with it.  After reading the Hunger Games.  After reading the Divergent series.  After reading what feels like a countless number of YA titles that have the same theme, I simply cannot deal with yet another story that involves a utopian society where people’s roles and life courses are selected for them based on their geographic location (Hunger Games) or some unknown selection process (Divergent and The Giver).  Enough of this.  Please.

My other problem and why I’ve gathered you here with me tonight is this.  The author, Lois Lowry, has this habit of, every once in awhile, writing a sentence where there is a descriptive word kind of haphazardly into a sentence.  When I decided to write this post, I wanted to find an example to share.  Unfortunately, skimming through the pages, I was not able to find one.  There aren’t a lot of them, but there are enough to break me out of the rhythm of reading the story whenever I see one.  It’s kind of like … “where the hell did that come from?  Didn’t she have an editor?  How the hell did she get away with that?”

Maybe it’s just me.  Maybe nobody else noticed this in the story.  Maybe that is the curse of being a writer — sometimes you see things in a story that nobody else sees.  For instance, when I read Twilight, I mentioned to my son certain poor writing techniques that drove me crazy.  For instance, Ms. Meyers has a nasty habit of including present term words and concepts in a story that is told, as most stories are, in past tense.  Chalk that up as a pet peeve of mine.  And when I share these thoughts with my son, his response is invariably something along the lines of, “Yeah, but you’re a freak of nature who pays attention to things like that.  I didn’t notice it.”

I was thinking about this today and realized that I have writing habits that may also drive people crazy.  I don’t always write in complete sentences.  Intentionally.  Because I like the way those choppy sentences sound and look.  Maybe that pisses my reader off?

This goes back to what Zoe Keithley said to me a few weeks ago.  As writers, we do not want to make things difficult for the reader.  We should not want to make them work for the enjoyment of the story.  Maybe that’s what the rules are for?  I don’t know.  But, I do wish Ms. Lowry would stop writing a sentence every 10-20 pages where I’m left scratching my head trying to figure out exactly what she meant and why she wrote the sentence that way.

About kingmidget

About the name. I was the youngest of four. Until I got to kindergarten, I didn't have much to say. All I had to do to get what I wanted was to point, and a sibling, or loving parent, would fulfill my request. As a result, my father coined the nickname -- King Midget. At least that's the way the story goes. I am a father, husband, friend, and lover, writer, runner, pizza maker, baker, and many other things. What I am not is my occupation. It is my job that pays the bills and provides for my family. But, it does not define me.
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2 Responses to Writing Habits

  1. olivia says:

    Interesting. I find that YA novels break a lot of “writing rules,” like overusing adjectives, adverbs, and unusual speaker tags. There does not seem to be the same lens applied to the writing in these books as applied to adult novels, (especially middle grade fiction, not so much high school works). The Giver is generally taught at a 6th to 8th grade level, so maybe this has something to do with why there isn’t too much criticism of it?

    I find as a 4th/5th grade teacher, we teach kids a lot of the things we’re later told not to do as a writer in order to open their minds to wider word usage and creativity. Many of the novels I read to them mirror this, (and often include sentences that make me think what?! as I read aloud). However, this is not to defend nonsensical writing, just an observation since I read more YA than the average person.

    And, as a side note, the Twilight series drove me crazy from a writing perspective even before I became a teacher and started to write more seriously myself. She also retells the story to the point of the reader feeling comfortable skipping whole chapters. As for the subject matter of the Giver, yes, it may be overplayed, but to be fair, it did come before the Hunger Games. It seems to be a theme that repeats itself with each generation of kids.

    • kingmidget says:

      It’s not that The Giver is that horribly written. In fact, compared to other YA books, I think it’s pretty good. There’s just this one quirky thing the author does every once in awhile that keeps jumping out at me. And as for the plot — that’s really my problem because I recently finished the Divergent trilogy and there are some similarities. I needed more space between the two.

      Don’t get me started on Twilight. 🙂

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