Stephen King posted something yesterday that's still got me thinking. Now, I adore SK. He's written more than one of my "Top 100" books. And I did appreciate his "On Writing" though I never used it as a how-to guide. I'm not fond of how-to guides when it comes to anything creative or artistic. Art is such an individual thing. One genius's "must do this" is another one's "never do that," and it just depends on what works for which. So I don't generally adhere to another writer's how-to.
Anyway, SK made some derisive comments about using the phrases "looked for a long moment" and "for some reason." Those are no-nos, apparently. SK says people don't look for a long moment, they merely look, and "for some reason" is just lazy.
Now, I did not run to my various works and scour them to see if I've ever made these apparent faux pas. I probably have. In fact I'd put money on it. *shrug* It's not something for which any professor has ever cracked my knuckles, nor is it something for which an editor has smacked me. (I get cracked and smacked for plenty of things, but never for that, as far as I can recall.) And it's been a while since I've ventured to any of the review sites, but I don't recall a reader having ever complained about a character looking at another for a long moment.
I guess I can see how "for some reason" could be considered lazy. I've never actually thought about it, but I suppose it might be more deeply descriptive to say something like "He couldn't fathom why he thought she seemed sad," instead of "For some reason he thought she seemed sad." But I'm not really seeing anything particularly dynamic about the first or lazy about the second. They say the same thing, and one is just as clear to the reader as the other.
So this has been on my mind since I saw it yesterday, and I think it's because it annoys me that an author would take the time to complain about another author using common, perfectly useful phrases merely because they're an apparent pet peeve. I mean, I have a weird aversion to the word "lips" but you don't see me telling authors to stop having their characters pucker up. And granted, I'm no SK, but still.
It just seems like unnecessary hubris to me. I was a bit disappointed. Maybe I'm being unfair, but I don't think it's an author's place--any author, no matter how successful--to tell other authors "these phrases irritate me; stop it." So it would probably be a bit hypocritical of me to tell SK "I don't like when you tell other authors not to use phrases that annoy you; stop it." But I kinda want to anyway.
Tags: general blather, writing