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March 04, 2008


BJ Hamrick

I loved this, Mary! :)

Dixie Phillips

Just bumped into this...... Good stuff....

You certainly have a new fan in me.... I understood every word. I'll be thinking about the hind leg of horse that would never trot again all day today.... OH MY!

You've chiseled your thoughts on my heart today.


Mary E. DeMuth

Thanks BJ!

Dixie, thanks for stopping by! I'm thankful my words made an impact.

Cathy West

Okay, call me weird but I kind of like the first example. Maybe I'm just too Jane Austen.
I have seen a definite change in my writing. I'm told it's a good change, so I'll just take that and run with it. I wouldn't dare
post anything I wrote less than two years ago for the world to see! But my writing has only changed, and hopefully improved,
because I've allowed it to. I'd like to say the more I learn, the easier it gets, but...yeah...

Michelle Pendergrass

I've been reading The Things They Carried for over a year now. I keep going back to read it again.

I think I've always been naked. People have been trying to shove clothes on me for the longest time. It's just now that I've been able to tell them to shove their clothes where the sun don't shine. :)

Michelle Pendergrass

I had to grab my copy--this is my favorite part:

"They carried all the emotional baggage of men who might die. Grief, terror, love, longing--these were intangibles, but the intangibles had their own mass and shameful memories. They carried the common secret of cowardice barely restrained, the instinct to run or freeze or hide, and in many respects this was the heaviest burden of all, for it could never be put down, it required perfect balance and perfect posture. They carried their reputations. they carried the soldier's greatest fear, which was the fear of blushing. Men killed, and died, because they were embarrassed not to. It was what had brought them to the war in the first place, nothing positive, no dreams of glory or honor, just to avoid the blush of dishonor. They died so as to not die of embarrassment."

(and if you like this book, you should read A Good Scent From A Strange Mountain by Robert Olen Butler)

Christopher Fisher

Good recommendation from Mark. The Things They Carried is an excellent book. Excellent. I still go back to read sections from time to time. And I'll never think of "Lemon tree" the same way again.

If you're still taking reading recommendations, Mary, I've got a few.

A Prayer for the Dying, by Stewart O'Nan

The Weatherman, by Clint McCown

Another Perfect Catastrophe, by Brad Barkley

All three of these are lean, naked muscle.

Heather Goodman

I adore that story, how you know those soldiers through that one aspect of their life. Brilliance.
I think Anne Tyler does an amazing job of getting to the heart of a character in interactions. No fluff in her stuff, if you ask me. Or Russo's Nobody's Fool.


Great examples, Mary, although I do see some of "you" in the first example as well. You have a gift for creating emotional images--something I strive for constantly. The charm bracelet metaphor left me breathless, so I hope that's what you intended.

Kristi Holl

Great writing examples, and truly a contrast! I like to read things with power and punch--during the day. But I still want at bedtime some Jane Austen or that kindred spirit, Anne (with an "e".)

christa Allan

I love this book. The chapter how how to write a good war story is really a chapter on how to write any good story. I've also used the book with my students as a writing exercise. Have them dump out their backpacks and/or their purses. Write about the things they carry, what those things reveal about them. Try it. It's very nekkid.


"To grab my reader and thrust her into the lives of my characters" is about as nekkid as it gets! I read that line and inwardly cried YES!!!! That's what this is about, really, grabbing with purpose. Yes, yes, yes.

Donna J. Shepherd

You know I like all your writing, but I have to say, I'm drawn more to the first example. There's a lilt to it - like music, with the second example being more staccato.

I guess I'm flowery. :)

Good post!

Michelle Van Loon

My vote goes to contestant number 2. There's no room for overgrown foliage in pointed dialogue like this. And the charm bracelet imagery gives your readers a history without pages and pages of plot-slowing history.

Anne with Green Bagels, eh? Love it!


I like #2, but I'll go with the general consensus that there still is something to be said for decorative language. One of my favorite narrative devices is the way Tolkien introduces Lothlorien--first a magnificient, flowery description (from Frodo's poetic perspective) ending with "upon the land, there was no stain." Then he gives us Sam's thought, a simple sentence beautiful in its nakedness about how he "always thought Elves were about the starlight and moonlight" but "this place is as elvish as any I've seen, if you take my meaning." Because of the conjunction of beauty and nakedness, I did--if I didn't have Frodo's description first, I wouldn't.

Actually, that may be why I like #2. It starts with narrative as (literally) naked as it can get--plain dialog without even markers. Then it moves into the mind and gathers up a bunch of poetic images: the lame horse, the broken and lost charms. The combination is stronger than mere eloquence or mere nekkidness, at least in my mind.


Aha! Found the actual Sam quote:

"I thought that Elves were all for moon and stars: but this is more elvish than anything I ever heard tell of. I feel as if I was inside a song, if you take my meaning."

Dee Stewart

Mary, I love minimalist writing. I took a year long writing workshop on minimalism. I am a southern romance writer by just being me, but I love a newer, tighter kind of writing. Nigerian authors are great at it and of course I'm a big fan of Chimamanda Aditchie because of it. Can't stop talking about her enough. So of course, I like your latter most. :)

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