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.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s