Tag Archives: Charles Dickens

First Person Narrative and Reader Resistance

The first thing my agent ever said to me was, “Readers hate first person narrative.” I had sent her a thrilling escape-from-the-bad-guys romantic suspense set in Greece under the Colonels. And, yes, it was told in the first person.

Still she’d read the thing. And then taken me to lunch.

So I nodded politely and murmured that it seemed to have worked all right for Jonathan Swift, Charles Dickens, P G Wodehouse and Mary Stewart.

“Yes, but they’re great,” she said impatiently.

I couldn’t deny it.

“What you need to do is forget all this ‘I think, I feel’ stuff. Readers won’t buy it. Concentrate on what people DO.” Continue reading

Considering Cliché: A Writer’s Unforgivable Sin?

The very first piece of advice that I remember anyone giving me about writing was, “Avoid cliché.” I was ten. I had to look up “cliché”. So now I have a question.

Dickens father of clicheA cliché is a word or phrase so worn out by overuse that it has deteriorated until it is meaningless. It may once have been striking. Today it is white noise.

The gentle reader ignores it. The ungentle critic berates the writer for laziness and lack of originality.

Dickens got away with “It is a far, far better thing I do, than I have ever done,” because he thought of it first. After that it became popular, then heard widely, then untouchable by any writer with pretensions to respectability.

Cliché, the Reader’s Friend?

Continue reading

What Editors do. . .

“What do editors do?” I asked my first literary agent, having established that it was not, as I had first thought, copy editing. I was very young.

She was an editor by training, temperament and still, occasionally, practice. “Teach you to write,” she snapped.

Over time I came to see that she was right, in one way. They intend to teach you to write what their employer desires to publish and/or knows he can sell. And they want an end product that will do just that.

This is how I think modern editing evolved.

Editors Keep You Legal

Back in the day when printer Samuel Richardson was writing Pamela to keep his presses busy, nobody edited fiction. Printers could be prosecuted for content, so such editing as they did of their clients’ work aimed to keep them out of the law courts. Fiction? Not a risk.

Dickens was his own editor. This could not happen:Dickens-and-his-editor

Editors Keep You Decent – and may have a go at saleable

Continue reading