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Thursday, 9 August 2012

Literary Talkback from Rodney Dearing

Some people have the gift of the gab, don’t they? Particularly on the end of a phone. You’ve heard ‘em I’m sure. They just ramble on and on about nothing in particular, just a virtual stream of inconsequential ideas connected by such phrases as, ‘Oh, did you know that …?’ and, ‘I remember my Aunt Sally once …’ and, ‘My dog was infested with fleas…’ A torrent of trivia without end. ‘A tale told by an idiot full of sound and fluff signifying nothing’ – with apologies to the Bard. Of course the real reason they carry on like that is that they actually have nothing much of substance to offer. On radio talkback it gets worse after midnight as insomniacs take over and prattle on.

But do you think that some writers are like that? You know, they just need to fill the page with words – any words will do. At least 1000 words a day as many literary gurus advise, or to demonstrate to themselves that they really do possess the work ethic.
But where is the substance in that? Where are the original ideas? Where are the crisp conclusions of well researched material by the author? Does it really take 80,000 to 100,000 words to tell a story? In this digital, increasingly visual world where time costs both writer and reader; it’s not the number of words that matters but the substance expressed by fewer words. Cartoonists, photographers and illustrators take this even further by capturing the essence of a subject with a few strokes of their coloured pens or a click of their cameras. Take a look at Facebook and Twitter and one soon gets the idea.
Or even Letters to the Editor which, after all, is a form of literary talkback through the newspapers. Now there’s a challenge! Try cramming your original, well researched ideas into just 200 words. Craft it in such a way that editors will proudly print it for their readers - up to 200,000 for some national papers. I’m trying hard but I’m not quite there yet. 200 words is a small target to hit.
This blog post has 350 words! 
From 'The Colonel' Rodney Dearing

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