Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Smells Like Paul Anka

Q. What's your favorite song?

A. I go through favorites like kettle corn. My current favorite is Smells Like Teen Spirit by Paul Anka.

Q. Isn't Smells Like Teen Spirit a Nirvana song?

A. I don't know what you're talking about.

[Ed: Paul Anka of Diana and Put Your Head On My Shoulder fame--yeah, your grandmother probably listened to him--has actually done a big band remake of Smells Like Teen Spirit. He's also done Eye of the Tiger. Anyone who wants to become a true music aficionado should listen to them. Prepare to be disturbed.]

Q. Your Q&A on MacGuffins got me thinking about using fractions in writing, because the One Trousers made Fabio float 1/4 inch off the ground. I'd like you to check this sentence for me:
Yikker, who was pleased to see that a lot of his men were still alive, that only 1/4 of his army had killed themselves.

A. I didn't correct Norbert because we were concerned with other things. You should always spell out fractions, like this:
Yikker, who's pleased to see that alot of his men were still all live, that only half his army had killed theirselfs.

Q. "Half"?

A. It's more dramatic. Notice that I also split up the posterior injective of "all live," because the sentence does not contain a caveat. You didn't ask about mixed fractions, but we should cover those as well. Here's an example:
Arthur still had one billion, nine-hundred eighty-two million, seven-hundred thirty-eight thousand, two-hundred seventy-three and twelve billion, five-hundred forty-nine million, eight-hundred seventy-two thousand, eight-hundred seventy-three one-hundred ninety-eight billion, two-hundred seventy-three million, eight-hundred twenty-seven thousand, nine-hundred eighteenths of beans left on his plate.

Notice the word "of" before "beans." This is a heterostrictive claudication, which serves to indicate that the fraction is over. Otherwise, the reader might be led to believe that Arthur had 1,982,738,273 12,549,872,873 / (192,273,827,918 beans) on his plate. This is not correct, unless Arthur actually had reciprocal beans (i.e. 1 / beans or beans-1), meaning that someone gave them back to him.

Q. I have a friend who I want to put into my novel as a cardboard cutout. She has really bad breath, and I could just tell the reader that, but you said we should "show, don't tell." How can I show this?

A. You go from this:
Jenny, who is probably a caricature of you if you're wondering, leaned over to her companion and whispered something breathily. Her breath was really bad.

To this:
Jenny, who is probably a caricature of you if you're wondering, leaned over to her companion and whispered something breathily. Her companion's face decomposed on the spot and fell into her lap. The artifical plants in the room wilted like roses in a bonfire. Cockroaches as far away as Egypt drowned themselves in the ocean to escape.

Q. That's wonderful! She'll love it!

A. We can only hope, dear grasshopper.


At 9:37 AM, Blogger ambrosia ananas said...

Thanks, Mr. Writing Person. You are a bright spot in my day. Not unlike the laser pointer that kid keeps shining in my eyes during class.

At 12:31 PM, Blogger Mr. Writing Person said...

I'm glad I can help enlighten you on the various and sundries and diverse alarums, dear Philistine. Also, nice simile! Of course, I would rather be a laser pointer than be like one...

By the way--and this is a little off-topic: where is the grand conspiracy to coerce or brainwash Tolkien Boy into board-writer-hood? Everyone just keeps sitting around wishing, and we all know how well that works absent bottles of djinn and so-forth.


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