I’ll admit it – I’m an alliteration addict. I relish the use of repetitive sounds in a string of words like a snake slithers sideways.
I spend way too much time thinking of ways to sign off on an email or create a Facebook post with cheesy phrases like, “Your Favorite Funny Friend,” or “Terribly Tired of Thinking,” or “Wicked Weather Wipes out Wisconsin.” You get the point.
Wait a minute. What is the point of an alliteration? To irritate the hell out of the reader? Not really. To impress others with our cleverness? Doubtful.
Headlines are famous for them; having only a limited number of words and space, an alliteration is effective in getting our attention: Duchess Dons Daring Dress, Haunting Halloween Hideaways, Police Provide Prince Protection.
Alliterations can be fun, too, commonly known as tongue-twisters: she sells seashells by the seashore; Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.
The real question is, should writers avoid the caustic or cutesy communications? Not necessarily. In moderation or for a specific purpose, the technique can be a great way to infuse humor or drama in a manuscript. But beware, too much of a good thing can be well … annoying, aggravating, and absolutely awful.
You might not find a Hallmark card recognizing it, but November is National Novel Writing month – Chris Baty’s batty brainchild begun in 1999 as a dare to write 50,000 words in a month. The activity has grown into a full-blown event, with over 200,000 participants willing to take up the pen – and put it down again at 11:59:59 November 30. (Check out http://www.nanowrimo.org/en for more details.)
Writing, you have probably heard, begets writing. One cannot be a novelist without lots and lots of practice. Whether it’s 50,000 words in a month or one million words before expecting to be published, as Doug Unger, UNLV’s Creative Writing Department Chair preaches, the point is that the great American novel takes perseverance and hard work. A photographer takes thousands of pictures in hopes of getting “the one”; so if a picture is worth a thousand words, a thousand pictures are worth … well, you get the idea.
Luckily, future F. Scotts need not go far for a nudge – or a kick in the pants. Writeordie.com ‘encourages’ writing by punishing those who procrastinate (like having your English teacher in a box!) with operant conditioning and negative reinforcement playing key roles. 750words.com is the modern-day online journal, designed simply to reward us for writing three pages (or about 750 words) a day, without having to post in a blog or share with friends on Facebook. Redroom.com connects writers with others – guest accomplished authors, budding beginners, and everyone in between. And of course, the iconic Stephen King inspires even the most hesitant storyteller with tidbits and tricks of the trade in his On Writing.
And for those who hesitate to write for fear of bludgeoning the English language, a plethora of material exists, so no excuses! Constance Hale’s Sin and Syntax: How to Craft Wickedly Effective Prose offers grammar’s ground rules while at the same time sharing ideas that make writing fun and fantastic. And I am forever referring to an old favorite, The Deluxe Transitive Vampire: The Ultimate Handbook of Grammar for the Innocent, the Eager, and the Doomed, by Karen Elizabeth Gordon, for those grammar gotchas that often stop writing (and the writer) in its tracks. And Grammargirl.com has gotten me out of a jam more than once.
Bottom line? Write now!
Clients are often concerned that editors will change their voice, alter their writing style, or otherwise change their story so much that the original “flavor” of their manuscript is lost.
Grammar, punctuation, and spelling aside, I wouldn’t dare use a red pen here! (Thanks to my literary lady friends who passed this along…)