Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Read. It. Again.

Here is why you read books over and over and over again, especially if you’re a writer: You notice the hooptedoodle and how it adds, or detracts, from the story.

First, a reminder of what hooptedoodle is. From Steinbeck:
”I like a lot of talk in a book and I don’t like to have nobody tell me what the guy that’s talking looks like. I want to figure out what he looks like from the way he talks. . . . figure out what the guy’s thinking from what he says. I like some description but not too much of that. . . . Sometimes I want a book to break loose with a bunch of hooptedoodle. . . . Spin up some pretty words maybe or sing a little song with language. That’s nice. But I wish it was set aside so I don’t have to read it. I don’t want hooptedoodle to get mixed up with the story.”
This gem comes from the prologue to “Sweet Thursday.”
I’m re-reading Arthur C. Clarke’s “Rendezvous with Rama” (don’t get me started on the Gentry Lee collaborations in later Rama books) and the hooptedoodle really stands out in this one. Not that he’s got much there, but it is there, and when I mention it, those who have read Rama through the eyes of a writer will know immeidately what I’m talking about: The simps. Superchimps. Mentioned in one chapter, then only fleetingly in the book. Not essential to the story or plot at all. Even the simps’ caretaker disappears from the book. So the simps are hooptedoodle. And the book would be just fine without them. Yes, they are a bit of good science fiction (explaining the monkeys are there for cooking, housecleaning, etc., able to do the work of 2.75 men per simp), but it’s science fiction hooptedoodle nonetheless.
I have no idea how many times I’ve read this book (I enjoy it immensely for its speculative story). This is the first time I’ve noticed the hoopetedoodle, though. I don’t know why it stood out this time. Perhaps because I’m editing a book of my own and noticing it’s riddled with hooptedoodle.
Recognize hooptedoodle in others’ writing so you can find it and kill it, when necessary, in your own.

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