Sunday, July 19, 2009

From back in the day


I noticed in a flyer that Walgreens would take old tapes and put them on a CD. So I dug through our pile of vacation VCR videos and stumbled across some of my old books.

Little Women.

It was my favorite childhood book. I got it in 1967 for Christmas. So maybe I would read some of it. I took it out to the patio, opened the first page . . .

Oh my goodness! The book I loved so much had broken almost every writing rule I've learned.


sighed Meg, said Beth contentedly, Meg said in an altered tone, exclaimed Jo, said Meg warmly. . .

Page after page of dialogue tags and -ly adverbs--what's a girl to think? It shattered my beloved memories.

Ok--who would have thought so many years later, I would try to reread one of my favorite books and find it thus so?

But here's what I think. Writing styles have changed over the years--some of the stuff used then is outdated now. But what hasn't changed is a good story. Little Women is a good story with a good plot. I cried reading it. I wanted to be Jo. I identified with her in so many ways.

Today we need to write the way the rules are set for today to even get a hope at being published.
I'm sure years from now though, someone might read something we've written and declare how old-fashioned it is. But hopefully one thing will remain the same.

We've written a great story.

30 comments:

Jan Cline said...

Im glad you posted this. I have been wondering about that myself as I read other novels. They seem to go against what Im learning. But you are right, we must go by what is expected of us today.

Sassy Granny ... said...

The good news is that "classics" will forever be classic. They never go out of style. I can pick up a Dickens or Frost or Dickenson book today and be transported to another time, another genre.

Sometimes words, like fine wine, have to ferment. It's when they're finally uncorked at some later date that they often captivate us.

Do you ever read back over something you've written and find yourself blown away? We exclaim: Wow, I can't beieve I wrote THAT. Where'd it come from? It's amazing.

That, I believe, is the Lord.

Keep writing. You are leaving an amazing legacy that may actually live on well beyond your mortality!

Hugs,
Kathleen

elaine @ peace for the journey said...

I've encountered this in a different way this week as my mom has been doing some editing work for me ... putting in lots of "ly's" where I hadn't. I kept some of the original, but changed a lot of things. It's hard to know how to proceed at times.

You're right, regardless of style, if they story is good, it doesn't much matter. And last time I checked, Jesus was and is the best story ever told.

I'm going to keep "writing" him for as long as the pen allows.

peace~elaine

Carmen said...

Isn't that something? I know the rules are there for a reason, but then again, a good story is a story worth reading again and again.For some books, that is true with or without it's dialogue tags and -ly adverbs. Thanks for your note and your inspiration! There's a new post up. Hope you've got time! =P

Sande said...

Some writing is like classic clothing. It's not the latest fashion but always looks good and fits well.

Besides, I would rather read badly written work with solid content which identifies to core truths in our heart than well written fluff.

Angie Ledbetter said...

Yes ma'am, with characters that stay with you a long long time. :)

Jody Hedlund said...

So true, we need to write for our generation. We need to know how to craft our stories in the way that will touch today's readers.

Andrea said...

AMEN!!

Blessings and prayers,
andrea

Kara said...

Good point. I think that is why some of the authors that have been writing for 20+ years are still around, they change their style to accomodate the times.

Lin said...

good conclusion...

Warren Baldwin said...

Terri,
I think you are correct in saying that we should follow contemporary writing conventions. But, your story about Little Women shows that what really matters, and what carries through time, is a powerful story line. We will forgive violations of conventions if the material moves us deeply. I've noticed the same thing with speakers. I have watched some public speakers violate some of the cardinal rules of public speaking yet always have an overflowing audience? Why? Their material touches the heart.

wb

jinksy said...

Always thought rules were made to be broken anyway :)

Valerie said...

sighed Meg, said Beth contentedly, Meg said in an altered tone, exclaimed Jo, said Meg warmly. . .

I think rules are made to be broken. If the story is good, any style works well. Artistic licence still rules.

Donna M. Kohlstrom said...

This has been one of my favorite books. I'm trying to encourage my granddaughters to read it! Now you've got me wanting to gather up some of the favorite books from childhood and reread them. Maybe the format is outdated, but never the story.

Jessica said...

I think you're on to something here. Another thing, only we writers know about these "rules". Readers, if they get caught up in a story, don't seem to care.

That was also one of my favorite books too! I always wanted to be like Jo. :-)

Greg C said...

I agree that we need to write in the style of the times. I still love some of the old classics and the style that they used back then. I could show you a book that breaks all the rules. You would laugh if you read it.

Jeanette Levellie said...

Terri: Thanks for this post. This is one of my pet peeves! I ESPECIALLY love ly verbs. After all, why would God put them in our language if we shouldn't profusely use them? HA!

One of my favorite old authors, Agatha Christie, loves run on sentences. Her novels overflow with them.

But, alas, you are right. We must conform to the standards of our time. Unless we are mavericks and can somehow create a new style all our own. Wouldn't that be loverly?

Jen, Audience of ONE

Stephanie Faris said...

You'll get published following all the rules.

But if you ever want to be a true success at writing -- one of those one-in-a-million successes -- you make your own rules.

Billy Coffey said...

Amen, Terri! Good books will always transcend time, and good writing is good writing, no matter how many of the rules are broken in the process.

Helen Ginger said...

I loved Little Women - that and Daddy LongLegs.

And you're right. Styles do change, but characters and plot can be timeless.

Helen
Straight From Hel

Nancy said...

Just seeing that picture gave me joy. I knew what it was and it made my heart sing. Alcott has some very didactac material. She gives a sermon in almost every book. Yet, you will see on my reading list, I have four of her books as my favorites. I own more that that. Her stories are so good that I stay up at night reading them - over and over. Her characters are unique. I agree her style isn't quite right, but she was one of the first authors I fell in love with. I'm certainly glad her works are preserved for all time for their beauty, truth, and charm.

Galen Kindley--Author said...

I think you’ve said something right on-target here…”Today we need to write the way the rules are set for today to even get a hope at being published.” Amen to that…and it’s a shame. Who invented these rules? Who changed them? Who says they’re inherently better?

You know what? I don’t really mind some: “...sighed Meg, said Beth contentedly, Meg said in an altered tone, exclaimed Jo, said Meg warmly.” These explanatory enhancers work for me as a reader. Maybe not line after line of them, but, why not sprinkle them in here and there. Why not a mix of both? "Showing" generally requires more words. Do that, however, and you’re criticized for lack of brevity.

Indeed, what’s a girl to do?

Best regards, Galen

Imagineering Fiction Blog

Yolanda said...

Beautiful, it is all about what is with-in that needs to come out....I say forget man's rules and walk by God's.

GREAT VISUAL!

Love,
Yolanda

ginny said...

I loved Little Women, also! That and the Laura Ingalls series are classics that will never be replaced!
I don't know, but it seems to me that writing is personal. The way one writes kind of defines their character because it is expressed in their own personal way.

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Terri -

I loved Little Women!

Do you think other books from that period reflected a similar writing style? It might be an interesting research project.

Blessings,
Susan :)

Cheryl Wright said...

Yes Terri, at the heart of it all is "a good story" and if we put our best efforts towards writing "a good story" it will live on after we are gone.

BeckyJoie at Leaders in Learning said...

This was one of my favs too. My family was just like this family in the book and I fancied myself to be Jo. :>)

sherrinda said...

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Tea With Tiffany said...

Amen. Hopefully we've written a good story!

Jill Kemerer said...

Little Women...sigh... I loved that book. And what about Rose in Bloom? Another goodie!