A delightful, horrifying, wonderful, hideous, exquisite post

I enjoyed this letter from C.S. Lewis giving advice on how to write, especially his fourth point:

Don’t use adjectives which merely tell us how you want us to feel about the thing you are describing. I mean, instead of telling us a thing was “terrible,” describe it so that we’ll be terrified. Don’t say it was “delightful”; make us say “delightful” when we’ve read the description. You see, all those words (horrifying, wonderful, hideous, exquisite) are only like saying to your readers, “Please will you do my job for me.”

In his collection of essays, The Adding Machine, William Burroughs describes this same tendency with the following (invented but entertaining) example:

“Nothing will ever bring me to reveal what I saw in that infamous crypt…” (where the inventiveness of the writer lies buried).

It’s a good lesson. One I will try to bear in mind.

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