Chuck Wendig’s 250 Things You Should Know About Writing will always hold a bit of nostalgia for me. I was around a third of the way through my first novel when I stumbled across it on Amazon, and at the time I had never read anything about how to write–actually, it had never occurred to me that such books could exist. What clinched the deal was the price, 99 cents, and the pitch, which reads (in part): “Contained within are things you should know about plot holes, self-publishing versus legacy publishing, “on-the-nose” dialogue, story versus plot, metaphors, copy-editing, killing darlings with a claw hammer, cursing like an undead pirate, and generally being a cranky and irreverent creative type.”
Something strange occurred to me today, regarding style and how it develops. I was reading Rudy’s Blog, in particular this post where Mr. Rucker mentions how his work-in-progress novel The Big Aha features “creepy vermin” living in “higher or alternate forms of reality,” and which he later clarifies as being “subtle rats” (or at least that’s my understanding).
Putting aside all the other really interesting stuff in that blog post which I should probably have spent more time considering, I couldn’t help but get stuck on those two phrases. Maybe it’s because the mention of rats make me think of the two fancy rats I used to keep as pets, before their unfortunate passing; particularly Harriet, my favorite, who was a hairless rat (get it?). Now, Harriet was most definitely not “creepy”–she preferred to skitter or scamper rather than creep. Likewise, she may have been “subtle” meaning delicate or faint (she was a small rat), but she definitely wasn’t cunning or wily, unless you count the ingenious methods she devised for storing excess food in piles of shredded paper in her cage. So, if I am ever lucky enough to meet rats who live in higher forms of reality, I doubt that “vermin” would be the word I would choose to describe them.