Tuesday, March 6, 2018

From The Editor: Lessons on Style from Hypnos Magazine

While normally I keep to the tried and true writing advice of the pulp masters, today's advice comes from Hypnos Magazine, a quarterly science fiction, fantasy, and weird fiction magazine that is aimed at the amateur writer. Their editors have seen almost seven full years of submissions and have boiled down their lessons into a single page full of broad advice for the developing writer. Here is a chance to learn from others' mistakes.
OUR PHILOSOPHYThe fundamental challenge for any amateur writer is knowing where to direct his reader’s focus, and every element of style serves this one and only sole directive: to draw the reader’s attention to the significant and away from the unnecessary. Thus bad writing is always bad for the same reason: it’s distracting.   
With that in mind, we have compiled the following list. These "errors" appear in almost every story we reject. Contributors would be well advised to study them. 
FEATURELESS SETTINGS Too many stories take place in a blank, unidentifiable setting. Characters seem to live in a void or a place so nondescript it could be either England or India, Manhattan or rural Minnesota. In certain circumstances, this ambiguity can be advantageous, but most stories benefit from the verisimilitude generated by a detailed, fully realized setting.  
EVERYDAY LANGUAGE Amateur writers often use casual, even juvenile, language in situations calling for grim formality. Middle-aged professionals shouldn’t sound like teenagers, and narrators—even when they are teenagers—should speak clearly, accurately, and intelligently. Certain stories might call for the use of slang, but few writers can use our contemporary spoken language without sounding ignorant.  
UNCONVINCING DIALECT Dialect can bring life to otherwise flat characters to life, but it ensnares more writers than it helps. Dialects and accents are notoriously difficult to capture without sounding cheesy or racist. Particularly vulnerable, historical fiction and fantasy often depict societies without a written record, making it impossible to know how those peoples actually talked. The use of the Queen’s English, being unobtrusive, is preferable to the clumsy use of faux medieval speech.
MUNDANE DIALOGUE Dialogue doesn’t exist to convey boring, everyday exchanges. It exists to capture emotional conversations between characters that would sound lifeless if simply paraphrased by a narrator. Greetings, goodbyes, and chitchat bore readers, and though well meaning, writers who record them in order to accurately reflect modern speech risk annoying their readers.
Check out the rest of Hypnos's writing lessons.

(Thanks to Deuce for pointing me to this page.)

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