If the passage absolutely demands cursing, be moderate. A little of it goes a long way. I've seen beginning writers pepper curse words through sentence after sentence. 'If you don't -blanking- get your -blanking-blank-blank- in to this house this -blanking- minute, I'm going to -blank- your -blank- and nail it to the -blanking- door.' Two things happen when I read this junk: I get bored and I get angry. I didn't pick up your book to read garbage. If this is as clever as you can be, I don't want to read your prose. In life if you met someone who spoke like this, you'd want to flee. Then why put this stuff on the page? As near as I can determine, this abomination occurs because a writer is corrupted by the awful -blanking- dialog that movies inflict on us these days. It's also a sign of insecurity. The writer wonders if the dialog is strong enough and decides a lot of -blanking-blank- will do the trick. Someone might object that this kind of dialog is realistic in certain situations-intense scenes involving policemen or soldiers for example. I can only reply that in my research I spend considerable time with policemen and soldiers. Few of them curse any more than a normal person would. This garbage isn't realistic. It merely draws attention to itself and holds back the story. Use it sparingly.
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Don't give in to doubt. Never be discouraged if your first draft isn't what you thought it would be. Given skill and a story that compels you, muster your determination and make what's on the page closer to what you have in your mind. The chances are that you'll never make them identical. That's one reason I'm still hitting the keyboard. Obsessed by the secrets of my past, I try to put metaphorical versions of them on the page, but each time, no matter how honest and hard my effort, what's in my mind hasn't been fully expressed, compelling me to keep trying. To paraphrase a passage from John Barth's "Lost in the Funhouse, " I'll die telling stories to myself in the dark. But there's never enough time. There was never enough time.
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So they spread the paintings on the lawn, and the boy explained each of them. "This is the school, and this is the playground, and these are my friends." He stared at the paintings for a long time and then shook his head in discouragement. "In my mind, they were a whole lot better." Isn't that the truth? Every morning, I go to my desk and reread yesterday's pages, only to be discouraged that the prose isn't as good as it seemed during the excitement of composition. In my mind, it was a whole lot better. Don't give in to doubt. Never be discouraged if your first draft isn't what you thought it would be. Given skill and a story that compels you, muster your determination and make what's on the page closer to what you have in your mind.
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I have a graduate degree from Penn State. I studied at Penn State under a noted Hemingway scholar, Philip Young. I had an interest in thrillers, and it occurred to me that Hemingway wrote many action scenes: the war scenes in 'A Farewell to Arms' and 'For Whom the Bell Tolls' come to mind. But the scenes don't feel pulpy.
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One of the advantages of having gone to Penn State was having had a scholar for a mentor - Philip Young. Also, a professional writer named Philip Klass taught there. He was a science fiction writer whose pseudonym was William Tenn. As a professional writer, he brought wisdom to teaching because he'd done it for a living.
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I use these senses - touch, sight, feel and smell - as triggers that invite readers or propel them into the scene. The trick is not to make it obvious. I've written an entire chapter about this in my book, 'The Successful Novelist.' I've lectured about it extensively, but have yet to see many people pick up on it.
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My son died from cancer. My granddaughter died from cancer. I have a lot of reasons to think that reality is not a friendly neighborhood. And the stories that I tell distract me, and if I do the job right, they distract people from things that are happening to them that they wish had never happened.
Some people might be surprised that 'Rambo's creator has a doctorate in American literature. One of my influences is Henry James, whose major theme is awareness. Whether I'm writing about military personnel, law enforcement, or De Quincey, the persistent theme is paying attention in a hostile world.
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