Avast and ahoy!
I am often asked how I am able to maintain such an impeccable prose style in my writing, even as I am required to handle diverse subjects and genres. I generally reply that the impeccability of one’s writing is directly proportional to the impeccability of one’s literary taste, and that a steady diet of great literature is the surest way to keep one’s tentacles strong and fit for the dance of prose composition. Yet there are some particulars of style and structure that I believe can be taught rather than intuited by exposure. These I have outlined below for the benefit of any aspiring authors who look to krakonic prose as an unattainable ideal; know, dear reader, that even two typing hands are capable of composing works to rival my very finest.
Here are eight tips for cultivating a literary style fit for a kraken:
- Do not use too many ornamental adjectives and adverbs, for they can clutter up a sentence horrendously. How often have I read a work of breathtaking and arresting greatness, lovingly tracing each line with eager eyes, in which I found myself wondering, if only its author had written more concisely, had trimmed away the excessive and burdensome load of adjectives, how much finer would my experience have been?
- Extended metaphors or similes, when used correctly, can bear the reader from one page to the next like a gently gliding stream. When overused, however, they can become a turbulent ocean, in which the poor reader must swim blindly, scarcely recalling where their journey started and not knowing if they should ever see dry land again. You, the writer, must ensure that the reader’s voyage is a comfortable one, extending a gentle tentacle to guide them through the metaphorical tide.
- As you have likely heard before, it is best in most cases, though not necessarily in every case, to limit ones use of asides and interjections, that is to say, of extra clauses forced into the body of a main sentence, which can turn the gentle stream of prose, to which I have previously alluded, into a violently twisting cataract, in which each comma, each break in the line, becomes a stone that threatens to dig a hole in the reader’s craft, capsizing their attention, or, at best, causing mild frustration, when the reader, eager to come to the next idea or sentence, must steer through such treacherous waters, hoping that the various twists and turns of the author’s thought will not take her or him too far off course.
- When coming up with names for fictional characters, it is advisable to make every name start with the same letter, even the same syllable, if that can be managed. This will save the reader much confusion, as they will not have such a great diversity of names to keep straight while reading. (As a case in point, I would refer you to Daisy’s Queens of Dragoria.)
- A similar principle comes into play when one is writing dialogue. It is wearisome for the reader to have to switch too often between different modes of speech. Therefore, one ought to make one’s characters sound as similar as possible to one another and to minimize one’s use of mannerisms, colloquialisms, and idiosyncrasies of speech that might distinguish one speaker from the next. This will go a long way in helping the reader cope with a large and diverse cast of characters.
- When one is striving for humorous effect, one should always endeavor to stretch one’s jokes out as long as possible. Anticipation is at the heart of comedy, and the more one is able to keep one’s audience from laughing, the more they will anticipate the next joke.
- Similarly, one can only craft suspense by letting the reader know ahead of time what is going to happen. The logic is quite simple: (1) the author wishes to create a sense of expectation in the reader; (2) a reader cannot be expectant of something unexpected; (3) therefore, the reader must be informed in no uncertain terms of every major plot point at the outset of a story. I have often lamented the unfortunate trend, especially in mystery novels, of revealing crucial information only at the very end of a book. Why, for most of the story the reader is left guessing who the killer might be and what their motivation is, and so often the answer is far too complicated and clever for anyone to have a hope of guessing correctly. Far more enjoyable, I think, are those Shakespearean tragedies and works of epic poetry in which a helpful prologue gives the reader a quick abstract of the entire plot before it begins.*
- Now at this point you may be thinking, Great Barrier Reef! How can I ever keep track of all these stylistic rules, on top of the already-substantial effort it takes to generate original ideas? Well, I should reply, you must not make the writing process too hard on yourself. In order to avert fatigue, you must always schedule in breaks for snacks. All the better if you can swim on over to your neighboring cafe and sip a kelp kombucha while you work. In writing, as in most occupations, the reward is half the work.
Karl the Kraken
*Daisy and I have agreed to disagree on this point. For some reason, she seems to enjoy going into a book blindly, not knowing anything of the plot’s outcome, and she has often become rather annoyed at me when I have given away the ending of the book she is currently reading.