Last night I told Saxon that she had used a word wrong. I should’ve known better than to think Saxon Bennett, wordsmith extraordinaire, would ever not know the definition of a word. She has the largest vocabulary of anyone I’ve ever met. That is her onus. (I’ve always wanted to use the word onus in a sentence.) The word in question was prosaic. I thought it meant prose that was flowery, sugary and perfumery. (I don’t know if those are words or not, but I like to make up words.) Saxon told me it meant banal, everyday, beige. Guess what? She was right. It meant the opposite of what I thought it meant. I’m fifty years old and I’ve been using the word wrong for at least forty of those years. Shit.
I read Elmore Leonard’s book, Ten Rules of Writing. It’s only ten pages long with a bunch of illustrations. I paid a buck a page for that book, but I think it’s worth it. I especially like his rule number 9: Don’t go into great detail describing places and things. He says all that wordage just slows down the story. John Steinbeck called paragraphs of description hooptedoodle. He said he likes to read hooptedoodle, but just not in a book.
I know a woman who is a very fast reader. She reads a page every 8 seconds. I told this to Saxon and she tried to see how long it took her to read a page but she couldn’t count and read at the same time.
My mother is a fast reader. She reads two to three books per week. I’m not a slow reader, but I don’t know how she can read that fast. I asked her how she was able to plow through books so quickly. She said, “Oh, I skip all the boring parts.” Hmmm… I think I might start doing that. I’ve always made myself read every word of a book. My mother is right. Life is too short. From now on, I’m going to skip all those paragraphs of description. I don’t care about the weather. I don’t care about the rolling hills of greenery or about the friggin’ color and texture of the sand dunes or the sky. I couldn’t care less about the color of the pillows on the couch and the way the breeze wafts through the curtain. I’m going to skip all the hooptedoodle from now on and just read the good parts.
Hey, how about if I skip the boring parts in my writing, too? That’s a good idea.
I might even skip all the boring parts of my life. Just concentrate on the good stuff. That’s an even better idea.
I’ll skip all the prosaic parts and go straight for the characters and dialogue and story. What a novel idea…