Those of you who have followed this blog for a while know that from time to time I open my mailbag and answer questions from readers who want to share my knowledge. Or I would, if there were any. But just because I don't get any questions in the mail doesn't mean I can't share some good answers I've collected. So, once again, here are my answers to some questions that these readers who almost exist would surely ask if such a thing could occur to them.
Hi ho, Mr Rho! I heard somebody tell me once that reading poetry could improve my writing. But that makes no sense to me because I want to write thrillers and stuff, not artsy-fartsy literary fiction that I can't understand anyway. So please tell me this guy was just stupid so I can show him your answer.
-- Chuck "Wally" Blunderbuss, Tropic UT
Sorry, Charlie, but I happen to agree with that advice. Good poetry will show you how to use compact language built around concrete images to convey information. Poets carefully choose exactly the right word to say more than the word alone conveys. Taut language without wasted words will help set a tight pace and tense mood in your thrillers, and will improve anything you happen to write. I recommend a visit to poets.org, where you can read their large collection of poetry, and even sign up to have a poem delivered to your email every day.
I like music an awful lot, and I hear that there's a band books week coming up sometime. I want to read about bands, so this seems like a good excuse. Can you tell me more?
--Harry Smithers, of the Orderville Smitherses
Dear Orderville Harry,
I too like music, but I suspect you might be thinking of Banned Books Week, an annual event sponsored by the American Library Association. This year's event takes place from September 22-28. If you want to help promote the even and celebrate the free exchange of ideas through literature, visit the website. You can find banners for your blog or site, and even get printed materials to show your support. By the way, talking about this worthy cause is one thing, but why not go a step further and read a banned book or two in September? You can find information about frequently challenged or banned books on the ALA website. You'll be surprised at many of the books on this notorious list. You'll also be rewarded for the effort. Many of the best books I've read over the last couple years have come from this list.
Scott-Dawg, King of All Knowledge and Whizz-dumb,
I have a problem when I read. I love books, but often a writer will use a metaphor or a cliche or whatever that I can't help but take literally. When I read about a detective keeping his eyes peeled, I get queasy. But nothing compares to a character throwing up his hands in despair, although I'd feel some despair too if I upchucked my own hands. So what should I do?
Literal Lucy, Levan
Lucy, dearest, let me assure you that you are not alone. I too suffer from this malady. Just ask the other writers in my crit group. May I suggest you watch the following short film, as therapy:
MGM Cartoon "Symphony in Slang" (1951) by 100X
So, there you have it. Don't you feel like you are richer now because of all this knowledge I shared?