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Is this opening paragraph subtle enough?

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Old 01-30-2010, 04:48 PM
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Default Is this opening paragraph subtle enough?


I'm worried that I'm giving too much away and that the metaphors that proceed this opening paragraph will be easily identified. What do you think?

Also, as a caveat, I'm not writing for the general populace. I realize some of the structure could use some revision, but as a whole, it is headed in the right direction.

"It is a fact that there are some phenomena in this life, which are now common place, that cease being extraordinary only in the literal sense. And despite this lack of merit, one cannot but be amazed once detached of their jaded proximity of this malevolent occurrence – for not all phenomena are good, or on a metaphysical plane, but palpable, and within human boundaries of affect and manipulation. Therefore those concerned may find conjecture on such issues appeasing to their character, to at least provide for themselves a clear hierarchy upon the natural order of their existence. It stands to reason that one should be in wonder, even awe, at such a tragic happening. I dare to say it is an anomaly yet still because it is an aberration to the very standards of reasoning.

This is an account of a most unusual situation, a person stuck and living in a humble shell."


Thanks for any feedback.

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Old 01-30-2010, 05:29 PM
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That seems like a lot of big words.
I found it a bit off-putting, personally.
Maybe others' opinions will differ.
I generally feel that, especially in an opening paragraph, it behooves one to be concise and to the point.
There's a reason they call it a "hook".
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Old 01-30-2010, 05:37 PM
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Thanks for the input, but it seems you didn't answer the question.
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Old 01-30-2010, 05:38 PM
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I'd say she answered it just fine. *And Iagree. *It's like reading a thesaurus.
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Old 01-30-2010, 05:45 PM
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I fail to see how anything in that passage could be considered an elevated diction. Those are all common place words that I have employed. Therefore I must assume that you mean the syntax, which I said would need some revision. It doesn't flow quite soundly, or even logically yet. But if you read it, you will find that it isn't hard to glean the message.

Like I said, I'm not writing for popular concordance.
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Old 01-30-2010, 05:53 PM
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Nobody mentioned diction. *It's just too wordy and stuffy for my taste, and I would say for most tastes. *Is it a lecture? *An essay on something? *Fiction?

It's too too.
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Old 01-30-2010, 06:00 PM
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It is just the beginnings of a short story I'm working on. I want to eventually make a website and use the stories as a portfolio for potential employers or partners to look at.
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Old 01-30-2010, 07:32 PM
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Originally Posted by MatthewD View Post

Like I said, I'm not writing for popular concordance.
Well, perhaps you'd do better to seek the opinion of your target audience, then (whomever they might be).

We are the "general populace" that you claim not to be writing for, so I'm not really sure how our opinions could be helpful or relevant in any way.
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Old 01-31-2010, 02:38 AM
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Hi Matthew, in answer to your question: No, I don't think it gives too much away at all. About the metaphors, I'm not sure I understand the question.

Since you don't want feedback on the quality of the opening itself, I won't give any.

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Old 01-31-2010, 02:39 AM
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Originally Posted by MatthewD View Post
"It is a fact that there are some phenomena in this life, which are now common place, that cease being extraordinary only in the literal sense. And despite this lack of merit, one cannot but be amazed once detached of their jaded proximity of this malevolent occurrence – for not all phenomena are good, or on a metaphysical plane, but palpable, and within human boundaries of affect and manipulation. Therefore those concerned may find conjecture on such issues appeasing to their character, to at least provide for themselves a clear hierarchy upon the natural order of their existence. It stands to reason that one should be in wonder, even awe, at such a tragic happening. I dare to say it is an anomaly yet still because it is an aberration to the very standards of reasoning.

This is an account of a most unusual situation, a person stuck and living in a humble shell."
Is it just me, or can the above be reduced down to:

"Weird shit happens. Here's a story about some weird shit."

I ask this as a question as I'm curious what the text actually means, and I wonder if I got that right?
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Old 01-31-2010, 05:49 AM
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My advice: hire Owen to edit it.
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Old 01-31-2010, 06:16 AM
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To answer your question no I don't believe it gives anything away. I do think it seems like it's trying to confuse you on purpose or the person writing is trying to show how smart they are. Don't get me wrong I liked it but I think that is how it would be viewed by most.
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Old 01-31-2010, 06:23 AM
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I've read your peice. Ok - it sounds v wordy. Now I know you've pushed what you feel is eloquence but if your audience cannot understand it, you've lost what you set out to do. And that, is to communicate. Good writing is all about good communication. Simple, clear words. Large, multiple-syllable words can distort your message to most, if not all your audience.

My advice, concentrate in your message and convey it in the simplest most elegant way possible.

Just one question: do you speak like you write?
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Old 01-31-2010, 06:01 PM
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Hi Matthew,

This reminded me a lot of a fifties-style prologue to a sci-fi story or tv show. You're not kidding about needing revision for logic in the syntax, though--I think I see the style you're trying to capture and it can be a very effective one, but I got the sense that in trying to establish the voice of your narrator you overstepped the accepted forms of general English, which makes a lot of the intro ambiguous--please forgive me for the breakdown below, but I can't help myself.


"It is a fact that there are some phenomena in this life, which are now common place, (make this one word here, so there's no stumble--'commonplace') that cease being extraordinary only in the literal sense. (that's actually very snappy writing--intelligent! try changing 'being' to 'to be' for better comprehension and to fit in better with your narrator's voice)

And despite this lack of merit, (I assume you mean the merit of being extraordinary--but 'merit' is a positive word, and as you point out, not all that is extraordinary is meretricious. Try 'originality'?) one cannot but be amazed (add a comma for flow) once detached of their jaded proximity (another comma here) of this malevolent occurrence – (one is amazed 'at', not amazed 'of')

( I think (?) what you mean here is that one cannot help but be amazed, once the phenomenon is separated from its jaded (as it's no longer literally out of the ordinary) circumstances, at the malevolence of the occurence. If this isn't what you meant, I have no idea what this means, as you never continue the thought after the hyphen.)

for not all phenomena are good, or on a metaphysical plane, but (many are) palpable, and within human boundaries of affect and manipulation. (again, pretty snappy stuff)

Therefore those concerned may find conjecture on such issues appeasing to their character, to at least provide for themselves a clear hierarchy upon the natural order of their existence. (if 'appeasing' is the word you really want here, the sense I get is that those afflicted by this not-so-uncommon yet still-aberrant condition take solace in the interest of the unafflicted. If that's what you mean, fine, but I would change the rest of the sentence--it's vague. Maybe what you're driving at is that the interest of unafflicted observers helps those afflicted to understand and accept their place as a lower form of some sort? It's the word hierarchy that is confusing here. What is a hierarchy upon one's idea of oneself? or is it a hierarchy imposed by the nonafflicted on the afflicted?)

It stands to reason that one should be in wonder, even (in) awe, at such a tragic happening. (happening sounds a little prosaic nestled in all these wonderfully precise words. Maybe 'circumstance'?) I dare to say it is an anomaly yet (cut out 'yet,' it's redundant with 'still' and makes it sound like you're saying 'but') still because it is an aberration to the very standards of reasoning. (maybe use 'reason' instead--the noun rather than the gerund.)

This is an account of a most unusual situation, a person stuck and living in a humble shell."

What this sounds like is a story in which the majority of people (or beings) are bodiless, perhaps pure energy or thought, and it is the story of one or several less-evolved or aberrant of the same species who retain their corporeal forms. I might be totally off-base but that's what it sounds like to me, and the narrator as I said earlier sounds just like the voice-over at the beginning of a fifties-era sci-fi extravaganza. Again, this might be your master's thesis and I'm totally wrong. In any event, hope this was helpful rather than irritating.
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Old 01-31-2010, 10:04 PM
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Hi Matthew,

This reminded me a lot of a fifties-style prologue to a sci-fi story or tv show. You're not kidding about needing revision for logic in the syntax, though--I think I see the style you're trying to capture and it can be a very effective one, but I got the sense that in trying to establish the voice of your narrator you overstepped the accepted forms of general English, which makes a lot of the intro ambiguous--please forgive me for the breakdown below, but I can't help myself.


Originally Posted by Dan Gallo View Post
"It is a fact that there are some phenomena in this life, which are now common place, (make this one word here, so there's no stumble--'commonplace') that cease being extraordinary only in the literal sense. (that's actually very snappy writing--intelligent! try changing 'being' to 'to be' for better comprehension and to fit in better with your narrator's voice)
Thanks for the helpful tips. Sometimes I get caught up with how I want a passage to sound, versus how it would be better off sounding.


And despite this lack of merit, (I assume you mean the merit of being extraordinary--but 'merit' is a positive word, and as you point out, not all that is extraordinary is meretricious. Try 'originality'?) [Correct. That is why it is "lack of merit". The phrase would mean "There is a phenomenon that cannot be labeled officially a phenomenon and therefore doesn't have merit, and therefore, by that erroneous logic, the phenomenon doesn't exist." That is the basic jist of the meaning.

However,
the word I so desperately wanted to work here was "titular". As in "a lack of titular merit". But you may be wondering why the specific word "titular" is used because upon careful consideration it seems not to fit with the original meaning at all, and can be left out. It serves to be a snippy denotation to fallacious standards of merit as hollow and posturing. Therefore, from a simple definition standpoint, and for clarity, it would read: "There is a lack of merit, but that merit is useless, as it is titular (only for show) and that there is still a phenomenon taking place, regardless of official acknowledgment - one would say it was, a lack of titular merit." I hope that is clear enough, I don't want to try to make this more convoluted than it already is.

But I would be straining the context of the definition too far, I believe. Also, it doesn't fully connect the reader to what I said previously, and would still make someone question (like you did) about its meaning, as it seems to be vying for a different impression altogether. After I realized that this wouldn't work, I despaired, wept, and went into a lull, leaving this sentence unfinished.

But, a thought just came to me. What if I thoughtfully put it like this, to prevent confusion to the reader: there is a "lack of (titular) merit"? With the parentheses
around the word, it makes it more clear that I disagree with the rest of the sentiment, and I dropped in that single word to discredit it.]

one cannot but be amazed (add a comma for flow) once detached of their jaded proximity (another comma here) of this malevolent occurrence – (one is amazed 'at', not amazed 'of') ( I think (?) what you mean here is that one cannot help but be amazed, once the phenomenon is separated from its jaded (as it's no longer literally out of the ordinary) circumstances, at the malevolence of the occurence. If this isn't what you meant, I have no idea what this means, as you never continue the thought after the hyphen.)["Jaded proximity simply means (and I'm not particularly satisfied with the phrase) one's closeness of this phenomenon has made one jaded to its existence - they accept it as ordinary.]
for not all phenomena are good, or on a metaphysical plane, but (many are) palpable, and within human boundaries of affect and manipulation. (again, pretty snappy stuff)


Thank you.


Therefore those concerned may find conjecture on such issues appeasing to their character, to at least provide for themselves a clear hierarchy upon the natural order of their existence. (if 'appeasing' is the word you really want here, the sense I get is that those afflicted by this not-so-uncommon yet still-aberrant condition take solace in the interest of the unafflicted. [This is an interesting point of view, but it unfortunately doesn't quite fit in with the metaphors I'm aiming for. Maybe I'll find a way to work this idea in, as some definitely do find interest in the "unafflicted." If that's what you mean, fine, but I would change the rest of the sentence--it's vague. Maybe what you're driving at is that the interest of unafflicted observers helps those afflicted to understand and accept their place as a lower form of some sort? [So very close, but you are reading it the wrong way. "Those concerned" and "their character" are one-and-the-same type of person] It's the word hierarchy [Think of hierarchy as synonymous with "caste"] that is confusing here. What is a hierarchy upon one's idea of oneself? or is it a hierarchy imposed by the nonafflicted on the afflicted?)


This is the paragraph where the logic starts to drop off. I just plopped this sentence in the paragraph as a simple idea with no regard to making real sense. It does pertain to the rest of the work, but only in, like you said, a vague sense. You would have to connect the dots, and it would be a pretty far off line to have to draw to make the connection.


It stands to reason that one should be in wonder, even (in) awe, at such a tragic happening. (happening sounds a little prosaic nestled in all these wonderfully precise words. Maybe 'circumstance'?) I dare to say it is an anomaly yet (cut out 'yet,' it's redundant with 'still' and makes it sound like you're saying 'but') still because it is an aberration to the very standards of reasoning. (maybe use 'reason' instead--the noun rather than the gerund.)[Again, wonderful advice. Maybe I should hire you as my editor, hm?]


What this sounds like is a story in which the majority of people (or beings) are bodiless, perhaps pure energy or thought, and it is the story of one or several less-evolved or aberrant of the same species who retain their corporeal forms. [You're on the right track, but too far out there concerning the sci-fi theme. The meaning is much more simple and at home.] I might be totally off-base but that's what it sounds like to me, and the narrator as I said earlier sounds just like the voice-over at the beginning of a fifties-era sci-fi extravaganza. Again, this might be your master's thesis and I'm totally wrong. In any event, hope this was helpful rather than irritating.


I think you are very thoughtful, and I'm glad to have had your help in finding these pesky and glaring errors.

I've laid some clues down in my edits to help you out, if you really care about what it all means. I think most people would pay too much attention to the first paragraph, and not realize the importance of the simple sentence that proceeds it. In all, keep in mind these two big hints from the writing:

Therefore those concerned may find conjecture on such issues appeasing to their character, to at least provide for themselves a clear hierarchy upon the natural order of their existence.

This is an account of a most unusual situation, a person stuck and living in a humble shell."



Thanks again for taking the time.
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Old 01-31-2010, 10:44 PM
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Originally Posted by MatthewD View Post
I'm worried that I'm giving too much away and that the metaphors that proceed this opening paragraph will be easily identified. What do you think?

Also, as a caveat, I'm not writing for the general populace. I realize some of the structure could use some revision, but as a whole, it is headed in the right direction.

"It is a fact that there are some phenomena in this life, which are now common place, that cease being extraordinary only in the literal sense. And despite this lack of merit, one cannot but be amazed once detached of their jaded proximity of this malevolent occurrence – for not all phenomena are good, or on a metaphysical plane, but palpable, and within human boundaries of affect and manipulation. Therefore those concerned may find conjecture on such issues appeasing to their character, to at least provide for themselves a clear hierarchy upon the natural order of their existence. It stands to reason that one should be in wonder, even awe, at such a tragic happening. I dare to say it is an anomaly yet still because it is an aberration to the very standards of reasoning.

This is an account of a most unusual situation, a person stuck and living in a humble shell."


Thanks for any feedback.
If anything, it's not subtle enough. You're trying to hard to sound intellectual that you're tripping up - there are certainly no phenomena on metaphysical planes as phenomena suggest only actualized existence. Being-in-the-world if we feel the need to look to Sartre. Tone down the language, it's needlessly complicated. Unless your story relies on the narrator for plot elements, he's going to attract far too much attention.
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Old 01-31-2010, 11:31 PM
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Originally Posted by Nihilist View Post
If anything, it's not subtle enough. You're trying to hard to sound intellectual that you're tripping up - there are certainly no phenomena on metaphysical planes as phenomena suggest only actualized existence.
It was a hyperbolic statement meant to provide emphasis for the main point that followed. When someone hears the word "phenomenon" the connotations are of an other-worldly event that has transpired, that one has no physical control over, and that is extremely rare. I'm not talking about the strict scientific definition of the term.
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Old 01-31-2010, 11:42 PM
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Originally Posted by MatthewD View Post
It was a hyperbolic statement meant to provide emphasis for the main point that followed. When someone hears the word "phenomenon" the connotations are of an other-worldly event that has transpired, that one has no physical control over, and that is extremely rare. I'm not talking about the strict scientific definition of the term.
Well, phenomenon implies actuality. Rarity yes, but rarity because if it's actual existence. Hyperbole? The tone is lost in the diction in any case.
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Old 02-01-2010, 04:02 AM
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As someone whose job it is to decipher the most needlessly convoluted legalese in order to understand its true meaning, if I come across fictional syntax which is intentionally complex my brain wilfully shuts down.

I'm not saying that your example is intentionally convoluted. I do, however, think that the time and effort you have evidently put into constructing profound prose will not match the reader's attention span. By that I mean any reader, target audience or otherwise.

Dan Gallo kindly spent some time giving you a great critique and cleared up some errors. Even with the time in which he spent doing so, he was still not sure of your precise meaning. Gallo is clearly an intelligent person with a lot of patience. This makes me wonder who your target audience is because they would need even more capability and time than Gallo to get their heads around a fully developed short story.

You implied that your target audience will be better equipped to receive your style of writing but I doubt this is the case. The opening paragraph just seems too abstract and there is a clear problem with the flow of the sentences. For example, I read this phrase several times and eventually thought I had a mild grasp of what it means but I couldn't be sure:

"...one cannot but be amazed once detached of their jaded proximity of this malevolent occurrence"

You want to leave your audience in no doubt about what they are reading. I've noticed some of your explanations of what was intended (in response to Gallo) are a lot more promising and you might want to incorporate your stripped down explanations into the actual writing.

You clearly have a lot to offer and I'd be interested to read more of what you come up with.
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Old 02-01-2010, 03:20 PM
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Lol rofl lol and lolcakes for good measure. MatthewD, your internal diction is magnificent but you have managed to ensure that you have no target group what so ever. Too stuffed with meaning-heavy words to relate to the average reader (don't worry, I acknowledge that the general populace is off limits) but also too obscure and generic to appeal to any facet of academia.

Owen said it best with
Weird shit happens. Here's a story about some weird shit
Quite simply, you fantastically combine a multitude of potentially arbitrary words which result in no meaning at all. Syntax may be be adequate, but it also causes the conundrum of negative definition.

I offer one bit of advice now that is not opinion, it is fact. Don't try convince people with arguments or repetition of content. Instead provide more text that can provide context and clarification. It's entire feasible that we could never comprehend your true intent without reviewing the full potential. If it is a short story, then you will always get the most honest and beneficial response by posting it in its entirety.

Looking forward to seeing the whole thing. I am intrigued.

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Old 02-02-2010, 10:37 AM
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Originally Posted by MatthewD View Post
Thanks for the input, but it seems you didn't answer the question.
Originally Posted by Lin View Post
I'd say she answered it just fine. *And Iagree. *It's like reading a thesaurus.
i agree with lin. i don't see any problem with the words you've used here, but the way you have put them together really does look like you simply wrote a word down, right clicked on that word and then chose an alternative from the Thesaurus on Word.

malevolent occurrence
things like this show an intent to impress. 'malevolence' would suffice
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Old 02-02-2010, 11:16 AM
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Well I think that you used way too many big words. It really throws the flow off balance. Try using smaller words. That doesn't mean that you should nix all of your bigger words. Just cut down on the usage. I think that will make it easier to read.
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Old 02-02-2010, 11:32 AM
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well, i suppose the less PC advice would be to tell you not to show off
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Old 02-02-2010, 12:10 PM
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Lets not presume or anticipate too much. MattheD, can you clarify what your target audience is? I assure you that this forum is a goldmine of critique, the people just need a hint in which way to help.

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Old 02-02-2010, 12:57 PM
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Originally Posted by My Demise 12 View Post
Well I think that you used way too many big words. It really throws the flow off balance. Try using smaller words. That doesn't mean that you should nix all of your bigger words. Just cut down on the usage. I think that will make it easier to read.
The big words are kinda the draw of it, I find. I'm guessing that we're meant to find the narrator a little pompous, and that can be fun in a story. But the flow, that's different.
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Old 02-02-2010, 03:53 PM
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Originally Posted by Bel View Post
Lets not presume or anticipate too much. MattheD, can you clarify what your target audience is? I assure you that this forum is a goldmine of critique, the people just need a hint in which way to help.

B
I respect classic literature, and I wanted to practice my writing to be geared towards that direction. I've just started, so I'm still getting the hang of what is, what I term, "acceptable ambiguity".

As for influences, I regard Edgar Allan Poe as arguably one of the best writers the world has known. I still have many authors and books to read, so that could eventually change.

Last edited by MatthewD; 02-02-2010 at 04:02 PM..
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Old 02-02-2010, 05:39 PM
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Originally Posted by MatthewD View Post
I respect classic literature, and I wanted to practice my writing to be geared towards that direction. I've just started, so I'm still getting the hang of what is, what I term, "acceptable ambiguity".

As for influences, I regard Edgar Allan Poe as arguably one of the best writers the world has known. I still have many authors and books to read, so that could eventually change.
Have you read Ulysses by James Joyce? If you have a love of complexity, it would be a good read. Same goes for Jorge Luis Borges, but in a very different way.
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Old 02-02-2010, 05:56 PM
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Lesson from Borges: *erudition need not be presumption, *and elegance beats out business
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Old 02-03-2010, 10:49 AM
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Originally Posted by Lin View Post
Lesson from Borges: *erudition need not be presumption, *and elegance beats out business
now that's advice worth noting. i try and fail often, but i keep on trying
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Old 02-03-2010, 09:31 PM
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Originally Posted by Nihilist View Post
Have you read Ulysses by James Joyce? If you have a love of complexity, it would be a good read. Same goes for Jorge Luis Borges, but in a very different way.
I have not, I will have to look into them. Thanks.
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