An occasional list of things that should be banned in writing
1. The word 'then'. I was chatting about this with my Wicked Friend the other day. He had sharpened up his latest manuscript by deleting every then. He said it had made all the difference. Then is a lazy word. Writers use it because they can't work out how to travel through a scene.
"Then the mysterious jewel thief climbed down the cathedral. Then he passed some stained glass windows of Jesus and then he was was struck by romantic thoughts."* (Jesus does that to me too.)
2. Attributing lack of sound and motion to dumb, motionless objects.
"Notre Dame stood silent and still in the moonlight."*
Did it really? You mean it wasn't engaged in a Breton folk dance whilst singing La Marseillaise as is its usual wont when the moon is bright?
With several hundred thousand words to go, I have already been acquainted with motionless armchairs, tables, wardrobes, cottages, rocks, mountains and teapots. None of them are singing, whispering, shouting, chortling or burping. Their unnatural silence is unnerving.
3. Characters who behave out of character. For example, a 'well-respected psychiatrist' who says (at the first appointment) to the disturbed patient who is having 'visions':
"It's probably your guardian angel. Have you tried speaking to her?"*
These days, medics only have to suggest that you can catch chlamydia from an unwashed turnip to be struck off. Surely Guardian Angels are also beyond the pale?
4. Spell check. I hate spellcheck. It has turned far too many brains to mush.
"He [The mysterious jewel thief] was hair to the thrown. Then he gained access to the Presidential Sweets in the Paris Ritz Hotel."*
But then, as my Wicked Friend suggested: "Perhaps, after all the romantic thoughts - thank you Jesus! - the jewel thief was actually sucking Sarkozy's bonbons?"
* I am not making this stuff up.