Pleonasm, Hubris, and Other Writing Atrocities

Pleonasm, Hubris, and Other Writing Atrocities

“You don’t have to understand the internal-combustion engine to drive a car, and you don’t need to know the circumstances which surrounded the making of a story to get a bit of pleasure from it. Engines interest mechanics; the creation of stories interests academics, fans, and snoops (the first and the last are almost synonymous, but never mind).” —Stephen King, Skeleton Crew

Why do you think Stephen king said academics and snoops are synonymous? It is an easy answer: it is true. I am an academic and I am a snoop. I enjoy dissecting things, mostly literature, but occasionally I will carve a bell pepper or tomato into pieces, and I have been known to slice a mean piece of cheese. When it comes to tearing apart a written creative work I am astute and exacting. I want to see the internal organs, and see how does this thing work, and what makes it tick.

The short answer is, yes, I’ve been an academic snoop sniffing out the intricacies of short stories and novels for over thirty years. I am not sure I have come any closer to understanding how it is suppose to work, but I kick the hubcaps and check the brakes before I get in and drive my stories, so there is that. Now I find myself in a unique situation where I am working toward earning a diploma so I can say, “By God, I did it. I earned a degree. Woohoo! Look at me . . . wow! In the end, does that mean I am a better writer after all?” That is a tricky question. Honestly, I do not think so; writing is something that takes a lot of practice and I find it hard to believe that it can be mastered in a brief period of four years. Not impossible, just improbable.

Anyway, what I’m getting at here is since I started school and am now officially an English major, I fall into this category of academics and snoops and I have been reduced to a fledgling undergraduate with stars in my eyes. Golly gee willikers. Would you look at how clever I am, Ma! I am a writer, am I not? But I digress.

Even after so many years of writing, and having published two collections of short stories, with a total of more than fifty stories to my credit, I do not think I have yet mastered the written word or the elements of fiction or literary devices; although, I do know what they are and can name a few of them that I like to use in my work. It is also known as rhetoric.

So, there I am pretending that I do not know big words and trying to sound unpretentious and not indulge in pleonasm and observe rule #17 (formerly #13) from Strunk and White’s Elements of Style and I am failing miserably. Honestly, I do not know how to sound like a newbie at the ripe old age of fifty and it is harder than ever to even communicate on the level with someone half my age when it comes to discussing the intricacies of literature.

Before I get a big head, I must remember that I am just an aspiring writer in a world full of writers who want to communicate and share stories. There can be only one Shakespeare, and his likes may never be seen again, just as there can be only one Stephen King; although many aspire to be him, it just is not going to happen. We must all share the world and the stage and the reading public as an audience. So, what is the point? A million monkeys on a million typewriters are working judiciously at recreating the complete works of all the greatest writers who ever lived, but they have not even come close yet.

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