A Manual of Writers Tricks, David L. Carroll

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Edgar Allen Poe's The Gold Bug offers a remarkably accurate model of a nineteenth-century Southern black's accent. Reach one extra notch for the surprising and unexpected word or phrase. Writers are often tempted to settle for the respectable at the expense of the excellent . This means that all babies are "cherubic," all starlets "breathless," all mathematical solutions "elegant," all harmonious happenings "reso- 41 A MANUAL OF WRITER'S TRICKS nant," all stalled situations "entropic," all oversensitive people "brittle"-not entirely cliches, any of them, but here lies the trap.

My back is sore all over. I ache along every nerve ending and vertebra of my spine. If the experiences of Jim Hawkins and David Balfour, of Kim, of Nostromo, have seemed for the moment real to countless readers, if in reading Carlyle we have almost the sense of being present at the taking of the Bastille, it is because the details used are definite, the terms concrete. It is not that every detail is given-that would be impossible as well as to no purpose-but that all the significant details are given, and with such accuracy and vigor that the reader, in imagination, can project himself into the scene.

2. Create a situation ofjeopardy, then resolve it. A critic once remarked that the essence of any drama is as follows: In the first act you chase your hero up a tree; in the second you throw stones at him; in the third you get him down. This principle, so universal and so recognizable, applies 48 USEFUL STYLISTIC TRICKS to other branches of writing as well. In the first part of the text you establish the trouble point: the police are stymied by a criminal syndicate; the orange crop in California is undergoing a new, mysterious blight.

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