Writing and Rules

For the last couple of weeks I’ve been reading around in the Miles Vorkosigan Saga by Lois McMaster Bujold, all available installments in the Richmond Tweed Regional Library.

It is interesting to me that every so often I get hold of an excellent read, in this case six so far excellent reads, and it breaks a lot of the writing rules I’m learning to negotiate. For example, the one that says adverbs are a no-no. I did recently read someone on their blog doing a pass over their latest w-i-p, cutting out adverbs and replacing them with ‘stronger’ verbs.

I’m frequently stuck for ‘stronger’ verbs and I’m forever looking for a verb dictionary. If such an species exists. Yes, the thesaurus is good sometimes. But I also find myself making up words (another no-no) and making them up from nouns (n apparently serious no-no) or retrieving words gone out of use. Anglo-Saxon is a good source. Reading an old dictionary is a favourite way to spend the odd spare ten minutes

So far, one of my favourite retrievals is “scaum”. I love it for its contradictions. In English it looks like “scum”, meaning a kind of “dirty foam”. In Dutch it looks like “schuim” meaning “a clean white foam”. It is obviously related to Dutch, my first language/mother tongue, and meditates on the way Dutch and English are close cousins, probably… I’m extrapolating here … by way of Anglo Saxon. I’m using it as one of the signature words of one of the people’s in my novel Lodestar, using the word’s Dutch-like meaning.

I wonder sometimes how writing rules get their currency? Bujold started her series in the 1980s. In that decade it seems to me nobody writing science fiction and fantasy worried about adverbs and adjectives.

Bujold uses plenty of adverbs, eg in Komarr, page 80, a random pick, … Exquisitely slow motion; He wanted a drink desperately; merely dead; universally used; No, unfortunately; accurately at the site; speedily fruitful direction; magically powerful; publicly released; leaked yet either, amazingly … And as for adjectives … shall we say about twenty two or three on that same page?

But the thing is, of course, that most of Bujold’s verbs are not run-of-the-mill either and a lot of the adverbs are part of Miles’s (main character) way of speaking/thinking, as well as being part of a particular style of communication even now popular in real life … that kind of know-it-all, trying to be funny but being slightly ironic style of talk.

I’m going to put this up though I had planned to write more. This last week has been top stress in real life with my mother, aged 85, falling over and breaking her “good” hip. She had a hip transplant, it’s the only treatment, due to the broken-off bit dying through lack of blood supply.

For me, us, her children, it means much driving up and down over the state border between Queensland, where they don’t go in for summertime daylight saving, and NSW. Constant change of time zone, even just an hour, is quite confusing.

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