Arthur Plotnik was kind enough to answer a few questions directly for Down the Writer’s Path. This segment continues an interview that runs the rest of the week. Plotnik is the author of the newly released, Spunk & Bite: A Writer’s Guide to Punchier, More Engaging Language & Style. Copyright Vikk Simmons, 2006.
Any thoughts on current and/or future trends in language and usage? Is there anything anything you see currently that strikes you as positive and interesting to watch? Any usage or style that provokes caution?
I think that style—in the sense of a distinctive voice—has become as important as content and story for one’s breakthrough. After all, everything’s been said a thousand times over. Why publish another memoir of addiction and recovery, for example, unless the style somehow distinguishes it? Before James Frey was pulverized and Oprahsized for lying in a A Million Little Pieces, critics were raving about his “intense, punchy prose,” and its “electrifying immediacy.”
A very successful style trend I’ve observed is the mixing of high and low diction, breaking down the old barrriers between educated and street English. In novels by T. C. Boyle and Benjamin Kunkel, for instance, you get phrases like, “peripatetic dirtbags” and “the widespread contemporary prevalence of things sucking so much for so many people.” I love the mix.
Wired messaging has created an abbreviated style, a Rebus language that seems goofy outside messages. But b4 its 2 L8, writers should understand that the opulent style—textured, indulgent, even antique, la Vladimir Nabokov, John Banville, or historical novelists like Geraldine Brooks—can still delight editors and readers if masterfully executed. It’s probably not for blogging, though.
If you’ve come to the interview late, be sure you read the previous posts this week and the one by Brigit Ganske from last week. Check out Spunk & Bite and see for yourself why so many are praising Plotnik’s latest work. You might also want to check out Art’s website, Spunky’s Blogrr, and, Plotnik’s official bio. If you haven’t already, read my review of The Elements of Authorship then return for more soundbites from the Great Plotnik!