I’m reading Stephen King’s On Writing again. I love how real and honest he is, and how unstuffy. It’s so refreshing! That honesty is at the heart of his fiction as well — he doesn’t pussyfoot around anything, anywhere, he just lets whatever is in him out. Also, honesty is his biggest piece of advice to fiction writers.
The job of fiction is to find the truth inside the story’s web of lies, not to commit intellectual dishonesty in the hunt for the buck.
King’s realness shines through in the chapter on grammar. You can tell from this chapter that grammar lights him up. While it’s obvious that he’d delight in going on and on about grammar, he does not. He does not indulge himself a flood of grammar-love that might ultimately overpower his message that there is a “comforting simplicity at [grammar’s] heart”: “nouns and verbs are the two indispensable parts of writing.”
Take any noun, put it with any verb, and you have a sentence. It never fails. Rocks explode. Jane transmits. Mountains float.
This lit me up, too. Look how fun those sentences are! How unexpected! I remember in my former writing group how we’d talk about concretes, which are strong nouns and verbs that require no additional descriptors. The most recognizable line from Stephen King’s On Writing is probably “the road to hell is paved with adverbs.” Minimizing adverbs is a rule that’s easy to remember when writing, but what’s more interesting is why it’s a “rule.”
Minimizing descriptors ties in with this idea of nouns and verbs being the basic building blocks of writing. If you choose solid nouns and verbs that do the heavy lifting of incorporating color, texture, sound, smell, and degree of action, then you don’t need as many adjectives and adverbs. For example, the noun “cherry” conjures the color red, a shiny surface, and a round shape. The word “thrash” suggests violence and possibly fear.
King’s zany sentences and his emphasis on this simplification of writing to nouns and verbs infected me. It made me want to play with words. I pulled out my sailing/ocean/marine lexicon. I wrote nouns on one page and verbs on another. I listed the nouns and verbs independently of each other so that I could later join them randomly and see what appeared. Then I put nouns and verbs that don’t go together, together.
These are some of my favorite sentences that emerged. I like the images they evoke.
Sand dunes sharpen.
Ice boats waltz.
I don’t know that I’ll ever do anything with these. Maybe I’ll put them in my prompt box. Or maybe I’ll just put them here and enjoy them.