On repetition, redundancy, conveyed information, and emotional impact in paragraphs. Example from Bukowski.
Scream When You Burn.
If that were a writing prompt for a short story exercise, what would you write?
As it happens, Bukowski already wrote a short story with that title. While preparing Monday’s post featuring a dialogue sample from his Hot Water Music, I came across an excerptthat I’d highlighted in his Scream When You Burn. I thought the excerpt overwritten, and had marked it for analysis; I cite it below, as today’s Quote.
My impressions was that itrepeated sentiments, and that not all the sentence were needed to retain meaning and impact. Take a look. What, if anything, do you think is redundant in the Quote?
The Quote also explains the title of his story—if you’d thought of your own story idea to match the prompt, you can compare how he justifies the title with how you would do it.
He picked up Camus’ Resistance, Rebellion and Death…read some pages. Camus talked about anguish and terror and the miserable condition of Man but he talked about it in such a comfortable and flowery way…his language…that one got the feeling that things neither affected him nor his writing. In other words, things might as well have been fine. Camus wrote like a man who had just finished a large dinner of steak and French fries, salad, and had topped it with a bottle of good French wine. Humanity may have been suffering but not him. A wise man, perhaps, but Henry preferred somebody who screamed when they burned.
(The ellipses in the Quoteare present in the original text; I have not omitted anything.)
Here is Charles Bukowski in his short story collection Hot Water Music. If you naturally skim-read, I recommend slowing down and reading the following dialogue at as close to speech-speed as you can (out loud would be even better).
Back at the Red Peacock Louie went to his favourite stool and sat down. The barkeep walked up.
“Well, Louie, how did you make out?
“With the lady.”
“With the lady?”
“You left together, man. Did you get her?”
“No, not really …”
“What went wrong?”
“What went wrong?”
“Yes, what went wrong?”
“Give me a whiskey sour, Billy.”
Did you notice a difference between how you pronounced the two versions of What went wrong?
What makes the Quote quiver?
Repetition with different emphasis and raw dialogue, unencumbered by sophisticated descriptions.
On E. B. White’s “Style is an increment in writing”, and on Bukowski’s short poem “Style”.
Style is an increment in writing. When we speak of Fitzegerald’s style, we don’t mean his command of the relative pronoun, we mean the sound his words make on paper. All writers, by the way they use language, reveal something of their spirit, their habits, their capacities, and their biases. This is inevitable as well as enjoyable. All writing is communication; creative writing is communication through revelation—it is the Self escaping into the open. No writer long remains incognito. — E. B. White, An Approach to Style in Strunk & White
White puts it so plainly, so delicately. Only skilled writers show theirspirit, their capacities, their biases because their expressive medium is no longer cluttered by ungainly turns of phrase and forced plot devices. Don’t his words make you want to reach that increment in writing where you too have style? (Not to say that you don’t already.)
White also reaffirms that hiding behind words is not possible: the better you write, the more each word says about who you are.
Perhaps I will now commit sacrilege—if so, please avert your eyes and ears, and click away—by placing alongside one of the most timid and decorous writers, E. B. White, the complete opposite: one of the most brash and indecorous men, Charles Bukowski.