Wednesday, July 6, 2011

MARK TWAIN ON THE ART OF WRITING and Richard Armitage (thought I forgot that didn't you)

Mark Twain


Twain's Rules of Writing

(from Mark Twain's scathing essay on the Literary Offenses of James Fenimore Cooper)

1. A tale shall accomplish something and arrive somewhere.

2. The episodes of a tale shall be necessary parts of the tale, and shall help develop it.
 
3. The personages in a tale shall be alive, except in the case of corpses, and that always the reader shall be able to tell the corpses from the others.
 
4. The personages in a tale, both dead and alive, shall exhibit a sufficient excuse for being there.
 
5. When the personages of a tale deal in conversation, the talk shall sound like human talk, and be talk such as human beings would be likely to talk in the given circumstances, and have a discoverable meaning, also a discoverable purpose, and a show of relevancy, and remain in the neighborhood of the subject in hand, and be interesting to the reader, and help out the tale, and stop when the people cannot think of anything more to say.
 
6. When the author describes the character of a personage in his tale, the conduct and conversation of that personage shall justify said description.
 
7. When a personage talks like an illustrated, gilt-edged, tree-calf, hand-tooled, seven-dollar Friendship's Offering in the beginning of a paragraph, he shall not talk like a Negro minstrel at the end of it.
 
8. Crass stupidities shall not be played upon the reader by either the author or the people in the tale.
 
9. The personages of a tale shall confine themselves to possibilities and let miracles alone; or, if they venture a miracle, the author must so plausably set it forth as to make it look possible and reasonable.
 
10. The author shall make the reader feel a deep interest in the personages of his tale and their fate; and that he shall make the reader love the good people in the tale and hate the bad ones.
 
11. The characters in tale be so clearly defined that the reader can tell beforehand what each will do in a given emergency.
 
An author should

12. Say what he is proposing to say, not merely come near it.
13. Use the right word, not its second cousin.
14. Eschew surplusage.
15. Not omit necessary details.
16. Avoid slovenliness of form.
17. Use good grammar.
18. Employ a simple, straightforward style.



I have loved Mark Twain and his humor for as long as I can remember.  He doesn't merely hint at a message, he bonks you on the head with it until you are too dizzy and too disoriented to disagree.

He hated Jane Austen.

As far as I know, Mr. Twain had no opinions whatsoever on Richard Armitage.  He did mention Helen Bonham Carter though in Tale of Two Cities.  She was in Des Moines.  But I digress...

3 comments:

LucyParker said...

What say you on the altering of "Huckleberry Finn," the new, improved version which has the N-word replaced by "slave" so that it can be taught in classrooms without offending anyone. Looks to me like most of Twain's rules would be broken by doing this.

And probably RA's rules of acting, too.

Karen Wasylowski said...

The "slave" can be Johnny Depp and the raft can be a flying pirate ship that has the ability to shape change into a sea monster - and it can all be in 3D. Better yet, get rid of Huck Finn and put in Kate Hudson. Or how about Beyonce! Oohh, this will be so good and it will honor an American classic.

Debbie Brown said...

I do agree about Johnny Depp.