When is your prose good, and when does it suck?
If you have enough taste and self-reflective ability to ask the question, your prose almost certainly doesn’t suck.
Because Being Able To Ask Indicates Sensibility
The problem isn’t whether your prose is good, but whether it’s effective.
What Do You Mean, Victor Poole?
As I mention fairly endlessly, my background is in theatre. Everyone sucks at theatre (sorry, guys). Anyone who has real skill either moves to a metro-center to do non-profit work (or cleverly disguised beggar’s theatre), goes into film (where all the decent folk congregate), or gets out of the game and becomes a lawyer (or barista, or housewife, etc.).
Anyone who successfully creates theatre becomes subsumed into another form of performance (youtube, video production, etc.) that has a more stable income model. The only exception to this rule are little family places, or murder mystery type companies, where the experience of going to the theatre is packaged together with a whole lot of sentiment or novelty.
What Does This Have To Do With My Prose, Victor?
Nothing. I just like to follow my train of thought when I’m writing for the blog. In my years of theatre-ness (I’m waiting for the kids to get out of nappies and early bedtimes, if you were wondering, because two in the morning set breakdowns and young humans don’t blend well), I was appalled at the consistent good-but-never-enough quality of actors, producers, and every style of director.
Most of them didn’t exactly, precisely suck, but none of them were enough.
Your prose, if you are a human being, may suffer occasionally from a similar flavor of not-enough-ness.
What Do You Mean By Enough, Mr. Poole?
People who know you personally, and want you (as in, want to get into your brain, whether for good or ill), will always be motivated to read your prose.
Readers, unless they are desperate for your subject matter, need more incentive, as does the average potential audience member in the theatre world.
Enough means that there is an element of WOW! to whatever you’re doing, either of shock, of brilliance, or of some other compelling emotional draw.
When the lure is missing, the work is not enough.
Now, To Business, Tender Reader
Close your eyes and imagine yourself in a cool, dark place. Empty your mind, or, if that is too much effort, think several times of how silly you look to be closing your eyes just because that silly old Victor Poole told you to.
Once you feel your heart make a pleasant shudder of excitement (the opening salvo of adventure-could-be-coming), open your eyes and read carefully, with steady attention, through your prose.
It takes shockingly little time to determine the WOW! or blerg– nature of your prose. Maybe less than one sentence, at most, maybe two.
Here’s How You Determine The Quality Of Your Prose
If your heart drops into a faint feeling of sick disappointment and boredom, your prose sucks, insomuch as it is not enough.
If, on the other hand, your heart speeds up and the harkening of adventure remains, or even heightens, you’re on to something good.
The test takes about fifteen seconds, but you must steady yourself in internal quiet and connect to a feeling of anticipation first. If you just go and stare at your work, you’ll hear nothing but your own insecurities or preconceived notions.
Your body can respond to external stimuli, in the form of words. Your emotional vehicle will change when you read, even words that you wrote.
Get into a blank space, do the test, and then work out how to write continuous WOW!
Today’s Writing Example:
Desmond, an Irish man in form and feature, but wearing the deep silver inserts of a Col-made cyborg, carried the pile of weapons into the warehouse and arranged them by type. The exuntor rods were laid in an exquisitely-tidy heap behind the door, and the blasters and evaporating shofts hung on deep shelves against one wall.
When he had nearly placed every weapon, a shadow emerged from the back of the building.
“No,” Desmond said.
“But sir,” a woman’s voice replied in a pleading sort of manner.
“I said no. Don’t call me sir. That’s idiotic. Where’s Chasya?”
The shadow, who was in shape like a female personage wearing no clothes, took on a mutinous flavor.
“It isn’t fair.”
“Where is she?” Desmond asked, his slight brogue tilting over the words. He could just hear the woman’s teeth grinding with frustration.
“She’s gone to the southern estate this afternoon for a wedding,” the woman said finally.
“Bitch, go away and pout with clothes on,” Desmond said, not unkindly, and he left the warehouse. It must be Manxu’s nephew getting married, Desmond thought, and he whistled a jaunty tune as he returned to unpack more of the ship.
You’re reading Victor Poole. We set up our Christmas tree last night. The cat is tremendously excited about this introduction of plant life to the household, and has successfully liberated one golden shatter-proof ornament so far. Said ornament has been restored to said tree.