Or – How easily ignorable the written word has become
Or – How the brain autocorrects what we want to read
Several things came up this last week so I’ll load them up, and try to tie them together.
I received an email from Pro Writing Aid a few days ago. The subject was adjectives. Word choice being one of my causes, I checked it out. You can too – https://prowritingaid.com/Adjectives
Point one – I often wonder as writers if we think about which word to use or if we start throwing words that sound like writing at a scene and hope. I read a lot stuff written like that so I know it’s out there. Why I bothered to learn the business/painters’ emotional color wheel and music’s emotional key wheel is beyond me. Except in advertising all that subliminal shit counts. But otherwise? I see people read through and publish atrocious writing all the time. In that case our brains autocorrect the hash to make sense of the reading exercise.
Which brings me to point two. I read (yes, really) a post the other day about Tolkien’s using only primary (or blended primary) colors in the Hobbit books. No adverbs or added adjectives. Green, blue, white, yellow etc. I will not elaborate on the plethora of bullshit commentary that subject brought out, but suffice it to say there was everything from another example of genius in creating a different word that was flat and different to dimensionality (?) to his innermost psychological workings.
It was brilliant, but not because he was colorblind or his mother fed him too much oatmeal or his writing instructor had small breasts and fat ankles. It was a simple authorial tactic to build reader investment. JRR writes “green.” Okay. Is your green my green, or Jim Bob’s green or Betty Sue’s green? No. When I read that book, that green belongs to me. Without me noticing it. I see my green in his description and I am involved. Slick, dead simple and big time effective use of adjectives (possibly nouns).
Staying with the color thing, think how many uses ‘blue’ has. Adjective, noun, verb. Staying away from determiners is a sure-fire way to avoid confusion, and offer ownership – (n) She was dressed in blue. If that’s it, she’s ours. In this case our brains will fill in the gaps, the right outfit, the right blue.
Next – I answered the call to a blog suggestion this week. Here it is. “Write a top 10 list in the voice of a character. Is your character a person making a bucket list? How about someone listing their greatest fears? What does the list they make say about the character?”
Simple, huh? There were a handful of lists alright. Narrative, bullet points, almost back jacket material. I mentioned that. Nobody said “oops.” Why? What was the word most everyone pegged? List. Like it had been LIST surrounded by air. And they proceeded to read right past “in the voice of a character.” List. Okay, easy. Done. Next? In this case the brain skips what we don’t want to see or have time for.
I learned a while ago that in business most people I dealt with from overlings to underlings decided to open an email based solely on the preview. No, you say! Bullshit. Just like how everyone is against texting and driving and says they don’t and all you need to do to disprove that is look at the car next to you. I got in the habit of starting emails like the sky was falling. I know I often bail on brevity when it’s not business, probably from all that biz brevity. My point is, why has it become impossible to read the whole damn thing, all of it, absorb its meaning, be in the words?
Which brings me to why bother writing like you mean it, in a straight line, when people will take what they want from it like it was a crap sound bite from USA Today?
Last but not least – Earlier today I read one of those modern “free form poetic prose” bits from a site dedicated to that “style”. A site with tons of fawning followers. It read like a narrative Hallmark moment. Which is okay, but don’t call it free form poetic prose when it’s full of glue words and medium strength common adjectives. Even when there’s a power adjective/noun/verb it is usurped by a miasma of surrounding and, and the.
The conclusion – Maybe we write exactly what we mean. Nothing more. No one will bother to read, or will read through our polished, over edited prose looking for the key word(s). We should all be on an Ezra Pound or T.S. Eliot Haiku mission. Or a Joe Friday style of “Just the facts, ma’am.”
It’s sad because that’s what I used to do with Spanish when I worked in that environment. I listened for the noun, verb or adjective combo. Necesito un pedal de sostenido para mi teclado marca Korg Em A Uno. Sustain pedal – Korg – M-1.
I guess that’s all we really need,
Since no one bothers to read. Hey! I’m a poet!