Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Are we teaching our children to write wrongly?

I remember reading an article a while back about what makes a fiction author popular with readers.

This link is not the exact article I read but is similar. Check it out here.

Out of all the featured authors, I find Elmore Leonard's tips the most amusing because it's largely the opposite of what we teach children in order for them to 'do well' in their SATs.

Apparently, the sign of a good book is when the reader can 'get lost' in it. If this 'getting lost' happens, it's because the reader has entered a light trance state - which accounts for how people can lose hours when they have their nose in a book they are enjoying.

Years ago, some clever boffins analysed various author's works and tried to find common threads between the best selling authors. Much of their findings is repeated in Elmore Leonard's tips.

According to the boffins, if there are too many adjectives, adverbs etc in a story, it distracts the reader as they have to consciously form the picture that the author is suggesting. Unfortunately, this snaps the reader out of their trance state. Far better, say the boffins, is to sketch out some vague descriptive details and allow the reader's imagination to fill in the gaps.

Plot heavy, description light seems to be the order of the day.

Agatha Christie, so it is said, averaged around six words per sentence and rarely started her sentences with anything other than a noun or pronoun.

Blimey! Once my kids have crammed in their interesting sentence openers, embedded clauses, connectives, adjectives and adverbs they don't have a bloody chance.