Wednesday, 14 October 2009

The Listing Tower of Prose

List too much and you might fall over. I have been reading a novel recently that has a great deal to recommend it. Good premise, interesting characters and dialogue but every so often it seizes up because of a list. Not a down the page shopping type list...on the contrary a beautifully written, descriptive list but still a list and during lists nothing much is happening to move the story on and worse, the reader might be admiring your list but like a kid in the supermarket, can soon get bored.

If I describe my kitchen as having washing up in the sink and a dish of half rotting grapes on the worktop you may well get the idea that I am negligent when it comes to domestic tasks and not keen on grapes. If I proceed to tell you what's in the fridge you may well maintain interest and compare it to your own fridge even. After that, listing the contents of my larder, what's in the ironing basket (I'd have to make that up as I have no ironing basket) or the ornaments on the mantelpiece start to pall.

Lists can be great if they have real bearing on the plot or are insightful to a character but if they are merely descriptive, take care.

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