Monday, February 22, 2016

Rant Alert: James Patterson and Sentence versus Story

The constantly best-selling author, James Patterson, is offering writing workshops. In his advertisements, he tells prospective students "to focus on the story, not the sentence."

I was a poet before I was a novelist, and this advice hurts my heart. We poets have to do a lot in a sentence, given our form, and novelists should, too.

Which story comprised of the following sentences would you rather read?

The doctor ran very quickly to his expensive car.  OR
The psychiatrist hurtled toward his Porsche.

(I'll leave the topic of using vapid adjectives and adverbs instead of strong nouns and verbs to another rant.)

What would have become of Nabokov, Joyce, Pushkin, et. al. if they followed this advice? Imagine Lolita without a master's eye to both sentence and story. And what about Finnegan's Wake? I shudder.

Dear novelists, please focus on your stories, but don't forget they are made of sentences. Make yours rambunctious, hilarious, poetic, unique.

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