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From: "Dan'l Danehy-Oakes" <ddanehy@siebel.com>
Subject: (urth) Some General Notes on Style
Date: Tue, 21 Aug 2001 09:56:46 

I don't know what to _do_ with this. It will probably turn up in
some form in a future book review. But I thought I'd toss it out
for comment.

This is, basically, an early report on something that I've been 
pondering for some time and which I am beginning to formulate. 
I think I've come to the conclusion that there are at least two
kinds of writing I call "good" -- or, rather, these two "kinds"
probably represent points on a spectrum, probably the points
which I find most attractive.

The first is the kind represented by Wolfe, Delany, and their
ilk; the second by (most characteristically) Heinlein. There is
going to be a tendency to turn my spectrum into a hierarchy, so 
let me state up front that I am _not_ suggesting that the first
kind is the better.

At any rate: it seems to have a lot to do with the amount and 
kind of energy required of the reader. 

Type 1 writing requires that the reader stop, sometimes after each 
sentence, and ponder. Some sentences will be incomprehensible 
without this; some will have multiple levels of meaning which will 
reveal themselves only after such pondering; and some will be 
comprehensible, or yield their full levels of meaning, only if 
you've done such pondering about _other_ sentences in the text. (A 
good, if unusually simple, example of this last is the final 
sentence of James Tiptree's novella "The Women Men Don't See.") As
a result, the reader spends a fair amount of energy in, so to speak,
starting and stopping.

Type 2 writing basically drives the reader forward. The amount of
energy the reader spends is, thus, characteristically less -- the
reader is allowed (encouraged) to build up momentum and plow on
through the book.

You can do things in each "type" that are not easily done in the
other -- type 1 seems to allow for a great deal of subtlety which 
type 2 would tend to undermine, while type 2 seems to allow for a 
kind of narrative energy which type 1 would tend to subvert. On the
other hand, you can use the techniques of each type in the others:
indeed, even a very "type 1" book would seem to demand that its 
more dramatic scenes be ratcheted a few notches toward type 2, lest
their impact be totally dissipated, while a type 2 book allows the
writer to plant little bombs of the sort Heinlein loved (frequently,
a subtle reference to his protagonist's ethnic background, as in,


*More Wolfe info & archive of this list at http://www.urth.net/urth/

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