After the last entry I wondered what, in fact, constituted a 'classic' and, according to my Oxford English, a literary classic is a 'work considered first-rate or excellent of its kind, and therefore standard, fit to be used as a model or imitated.' 'Classicism' denotes the deliberate imitation of works of antiquity and is qualified as 'neo-classicism' which flourished in the 17th and 18th centuries. Romanticism, prevalent in the 19th century, saw itself as a 'revolt' against Classicism, which in turn led to authors such as T.S. Eliot at the beginning of the 20th century, being more concerned with man's limitations rather than his perfection and Hugo wrote as a conscious rebel against classicism.
I love the fact that there are many styles and 'types' of writing - they are what makes reading exciting - so I looked up a few:
Gothic novel - these are tales of the macabre, fantastic and supernatural usually set amidst haunted castles and sinister landscapes such as graveyards and ruins. Reaching their height of popularity in the late 1800s and early 1900s the word 'gothic' originally implied 'medieval' but later its emphasis was upon the macabre, the medieval element being totally disregarded in many cases. The first of the true gothic novels was 'The Castle of Otranto' (1764) by Horace Walpole.
Limerick - I love these and didn't realise that the first instances occur in 1820 (The History of Sixteen Wonderful Women) and then popularised by Lear in his 'Book of Nonsense'. The name derives (allegedly) from a custom at parties where each guest sang a 'nonsense-verse' followed by a chorus containing 'Will you come up to Limerick?' Lear and Rosetti both wrote limericks, but, as they are usually a form of facetious jingle, most are anonymous.
Romance - originally from the Latin 'romanice (in the Roman language) and the word 'roman' in Old French was used to describe the popular courtly stories dealing with heroes such as Arthur, Charlemagne and Alexander. From the 15th century romances are usually in prose, during the 16th century examples were Spenser and Shakespeare's inspiration and then, of course, Romanticism in the 19th century. Used to cover sentimental novels from the 18th century onwards it is now a popular genre for paperbacks.
Sonnet - is a poem consisting of 14 lines with rhymes arranged according to a definite scheme. Milton Shakespeare and Wordsworth were adepts. Introduced to England by Wyatt and developed by Surrey, most are amatory in content. D.G. Rosetti, E.B. Browning, Milton, and Keats were also prominent.
Villanelle - is a poem consisting of five three-lined stanzas and a quatrain with only two rhymes throughout. These were usually pastoral or lyrical in nature and have been used in light verse by writers such as Lang, Dobsen, Auden and Dylan Thomas.
Find a style you fancy and have a go.
An A-Z of literary and poetic terms that I discovered last week made me think about what and how work is written. When writing do we know we are producing iambic pentameters or alliterative verse? I thought alliterative verse - as an example - was a whole poem full of same sounding words but it isn't. Alliteration is the commencement of two or more words in close connection with the same sound as in 'Monday morning murmurings' but alliterative verse is the native German tradition of English poetry and the standard form in Old English up to the 11th century, recurring in Middle English as a formal alternative to the syllable-counting rhymed verse borrowed from French. The Old English line was unrhymed and made up of two distinct half-lines each containing two stressed syllables. The alliteration was always on the the first stress of the second half-line which alliterated with the stresses in the first half-line. Nothing after Middle English, apparently, can be said to be alliterative verse, although Auden and Day-Lewis did attempt a revival of the art.
Here are a few more terms that I found interesting:
Assonance - is the correspondence or rhyming of one word with another in accented and following vowels but not in the consonents - such as in Yeat's 'Byzantium' - 'That dolphin-torn, that gong-tormented sea' and in Keats' 'Ode to Autumn' - Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn/Among the river sallows, borne aloft/Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies.'
Ballad and Ballade: A ballad was originally a song intended as a dance accompaniment. They were often printed on a single sheet and sold at fairs. Now it is used as a short spirited poem in short stanzas narrating a popular story. Keats (again), Morris, Hardy and Yeats used this form often.
A ballade, on the other hand, is a poem of one or more triplets of seven or eight-lined stanzas, each ending with the same line. It was dominant in 14th and 15th century French poetry, Villon being one of its main users.
Canto - is a subdivision of a long, narrative, epic poem such as in Dante's 'Inferno'.
Clerihew - is an epigrammatic verse-form that was invented by Edmund Clerihew Bentley. it consists of two rhymed couplets that usually deal with a well-known person's character or career, for example:
Sir James Jeans
Always says what he means
He is really perfectly serious
About the Universe being Mysterious
Concrete poetry - experiemtental poetry developed and flourishing during the 1950's and 1960's dealing with typography, graphics and the 'ideogram concept'.
Foot - is a division of verse consisting of a number of syllables, one of which has the principal stress.
Heroic couplet - Introduced into English by Chaucer, this is a pair of rhymed lines of iambic pentameter.
Metre - This one could have a section all of its own as there are feet, dactyls, elegiac couplets, iambic trimeters and lyric metres involved. Basically it is the sound pattern on whose recurrence the rhythm depends throughout the poem. The most popular in ancient poetry was the hexameter. The 5th century brought about a radical change as stress became the determining feature rather than shape of the classical 'feet'. I need to look further into this one!
Palindrome - This is from the Greek 'running back again' as the word or line of text can read the same backwards as forwards, for example: Lewd did I live & evil I did dwel (Philips).
The first one here is that no-one can proof-read or copy-edit their own work. You know where the story is going, you know what should come next and you know your characters. It needs someone who can give impartial, constructive advice and who can say, "Excuse me, but what happened in between you jumping off the cliff and appearing in Harrods in carpet slippers?" without causing offence.
Try to use life experiences - your imagination may be fantastic but for emotional pieces you can put in your own understanding and empathy and make your readers do the same.
Use a Thesaurus - keep one with you at all times whilst writing. Try not to use the same words repeatedly. I have just finished a book by a well-known author who used 'therefore' three times in the same sentence on more than one occasion.
The same author also used 'And' at the beginning of almost every sentence throughout the book. This is useful if you are writing media/advertising material and need to get a point across quickly in limited space but in a novel? As the late Terry Pratchett said, "Let grammar, punctuation and spelling into your life! Even the most energetic and wonderful mess has to be turned into sentences."
Here are a few more:
Tina Fey - "It's a great lesson about not being too precious about your writing. You have to try your hardest to be at the top of your game and improve every joke you can until the last possible second, and then you have to let it go. You can't be that kid standing at the top of the waterslide overthinking it .. You have to let people see what you wrote."
George Orwell had a few - Never use a metaphor, simile or other figure of speech that you are used to seeing in print; never use a long word where a short one will do; if it is possible to cut a word out then cut it out.
James Patterson - "I'm always pretending that I'm sitting across from somebody. I'm telling them a story, and I don't want them to get up until it's finished."
But most of all - enjoy your writing! Again, as Terry Pratchett said, "Writing is the most fun anyone can have by themselves!"
As chosen by the Mayor of Ely:
First prize ‘In Our Time’ by Francis Woods writing as Lisa Woods
My grandsons are playing on the lawn. They circle Louise and the baby, whooping in delight, spraying water from their plastic guns. The baby girl leans forward and squeals at them, little hands clasping and feet kicking in excitement. It’s a beautiful summer day and my garden is looking its best. I wonder for how long. But after all that’s what a visit to Granny’s is all about, having lots of space and being treated to the things they’ve always wanted.
My cat makes the mistake of jumping down into the garden from the neighbour’s fence. I’m surprised he hasn’t heard the singing and shouting. Too late, he realises that there are visitors, but not before a spray of water has hit him. It’s surprisingly accurate, leaving a furrow of fur that ends in a quiff between his ears. Disgusted he heads for the tree before there’s a second shot. The boys are after him but, knowing where he’s going, he disappears up into the leafy branches.
I’m watching this from the kitchen unable to do more to help the unfortunate feline. Drinks for the boys are already outside and I have come in to prepare squash for Louise and myself. I feel in need of something stronger.
'It’s lovely to see Louise and the children here.’ It’s my husband, Paul, who’s crept up on me. ‘Has
Ben come with her?’
‘No,’ I reply. ‘He’s like you used to be, too busy to get away from work.’
‘If I’d known what I know now, I’d have spent more time with you all,’ he replies.
‘I know. We always missed you.’ I don’t want to dwell on this, now’s not the right time for sad reminiscing and ‘what ifs’.
‘They’re beautiful children.’ He’s looking through the window. ‘What a gorgeous little girl.’ He chuckles. ‘She’ll be a handful if she ever catches up with them.’
‘Tell me about it.’ I pause for a moment. ‘From what Louise says I wouldn’t be surprised if they decide to go for another one.’
The ice is melting in our drinks. I’d prepare something for him, to stop him from leaving, but he doesn’t need a drink. I don’t want him to go, not just yet. He starts to move towards the door and I can’t think of
anything else to say that will keep him.
‘See you later?’ I ask.
He nods, ‘I’ll be waiting for you.’ And he’s gone. I pick up the tray and carry the drinks to the garden. Paul died four years ago. For a while he visited me frequently but not so much now. Time moves
differently on the other side and it’s hard for him to know that our lives have moved on without him. I expect he picked up the happiness of children singing and it brought him home for a short while. I wipe
my eyes, fix a smile and walk out into the dazzling sunlight.
Filled with emotion - somehow manages to be heart-warming and heart-wrenching at the same time. I love the description of the scene in the garden - I felt I was standing in the kitchen with the
protagonist, looking out of the window, enjoying the children and feeling for the poor cat. And I loved the naturalness of the dialogue with Paul - the protagonists simple acceptance of his presence makes it
believable to us too - and we feel with her, as she struggles to find a way to make him stay, whilst at the same time sadly accepting that he cannot.