Thursday, July 18, 2013

How my brain works in mid-July

A few random thoughts:

--This Saturday, July 20, at 3:30 PM, I'll be on a panel called "Life is Messy" with Elizabeth LaBan and Katherine Marsh at Hooray for Books! 1555 King Street, Alexandria, VA. Please join us if you're in the neighborhood!

--I wish one of the train stations around here were named "Nothing." Then I could say, "Today I will stop at Nothing!"
This is the kind of joke someone surely must have made before, but I thought of it myself while waiting for my morning train, and this is exactly the kind of silly thing that amuses me. Perhaps the heat has begun to melt my brain case. The heat index here today was something like 105 F.

--A typical rookie writing mistake (leading sometimes to unintentional humor) is the use of modifiers that don't match the tone of the piece, or that call to mind images exactly the opposite of the desired effect. For example, "Her lips were as red and juicy as a rotting tomato" is not a romantic image, red and juicy though rotting tomatoes may be. Sometimes we get so caught up in trying to find an exact, literal image that we forget to think about how it will work in context.
By the same token, the right modifier can be powerful by setting the right tone. For example, a character could have gray hair whose color could be compared to rat's fur, or steel, or clouds. The choice will be based on what we want to say about that character, the character who is describing her, or both (i.e., the relationship between them).
Of course, if humor is what you're going for, then using descriptive words to produce clashing, instead of cohesive, images is one more tool in that particular toolbox.


  1. It wouldn't surprise me if there was a town/place/stop named Nothing in the world. There are some pretty strange titles as it is!

    I hope the panel goes well.

  2. Stretching for that unique metaphor doesn't work, and when I try to do it, I agree, it's darned funny.