I just updated my Facebook status to this:
Catherine Cookson ≠ Jane Austen, foolish citizens of YouTube. Take Dickens’ most depressing and inconclusive novel, sans the moral commentary, add a dash of illiteracy, a penchant for illegitimate heroines who can’t make any good decisions and you have a Catherin Cookson drama. It’s like meshing Wuthering Heights with Great Expectations. No. Thanks.
Then I started rambling in the comment section of my own status and I thought to myself, “Who will actually want to read all this broken up in little pieces? (Or at all.) I should ramble on my blog!” And I said, “TO THE BLOG!” and I came to my blog. Here I am, then! Hullo, bloggers!
The rest of my words would have been like these…
On the first page of one of her novels, Cookson has this to say:
She also shut out the face of her seventeen-year-old daughter, her plain, nondescript daughter.
Bethie does not like. Do not tell us the girl is seventeen and plain and then say she’s nondescript. You just described her! Very poorly, I admit, but the fact that she is plain already begins a description.
“Nondescript” is a lazy term and I hate it. Nothing is nondescript to a writer, and seeing it on the page feels rather insulting to me as a reader. The word “nondescript” in my mind comes across as “I’m too darned lazy to take the effort to really describe this character and his/her surroundings” or “I’m bored with my own story so I threw this word in it to get on with it.” It conveys no pride or passion for your writing, sad authors who use it!
It’s such a stupid word. One of the definitions I found for it says:
If writers are using the term “nondescript” as a way to say their fictional person, place, or thing is “not easy to describe” I’d like to ask them one very simple, yet striking question…
Why did you become a writer, then??
No, really! I’d like to know! Of course there are going to be things that aren’t easy to describe! That’s the whole reason and joy and bittersweet zest derived from writing! If everything was easy to describe, there would be nothing special about a good book. Such fewlishness!
I propose that instead of using “nondescript” every time we come across something uninteresting or hard to describe, we describe it anyway. Just because the thing is uninteresting doesn’t mean your writing has to be.
How about these…
The girl was so plain and ordinary looking that her features are hardly worth mentioning.
I suppose she was tolerable to look upon–indeed, many were far uglier, there being nothing remarkable at all in her face or form.
To be fair, I haven’t read a full Cookson novel. With my schedule the way it is now I barely have time for the best literature, let alone a curiosity read. I have been watching the movie versions of her stories on YouTube when I have a few hours to myself and they mostly just annoy me. So it comes to no real surprise that her writing does too.
And while we’re on the subject, The Tide of Life traumatized me when I was younger. I recall that the only character I was fond of got murdered by a huge hook on a crane-type-thing being swung into his face. It was one of those moments where less was more and what they didn’t show scarred me for life. But before you get ideas, that does not work the same way in writing! You can be vague and make the reader exercise his own imagination to create a horrifying scene, but that does not, under any circumstance justify the word “nondescript.” Hateful word.
The only two things I will allow to be called “nondescript” are Bella Swan’s personality and the books that contain the word “nondescript.” The first does not exist and therefore has no proper description, and the other condemns itself.
P.S. Generally, things that don’t exist should still be described. In fact, if you made something up it’s even more important to describe it and describe it well. I mean to use the term in regards to Bella Swan’s personality as the ultimate insult. As one, Horatio Hornblower would say, “You’re not worth the powder.” Words are my powder. And SMeyer and her creations are not worth mine.
P.P.S. I do realize I put the P.S. before my initial. Yep.
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2010.