It seems that some light can be shed on the Tiger Woods fiasco by an interview he gave to GQ back in 1997. An article by Charles P Pierce portrayed Woods as a vulgar and libidinous frat boy, who cusses freely and makes dubious jokes about well-endowed black men. The story goes that after this interview a Tiger Team of PR goons seized control of his image to ensure that he would henceforth be indistinguishable from the character in his Playstation game, and so he was until the whole phoney structure caved in last year.
You can read the piece by Charles P Pierce here. Or at least you can try, and if you manage to get to the end you deserve some sort of prize, because Pierce must be one of the most mannered hacks in print. The prose is, for me, literally unreadable. The hammered repetition of “Is it blasphemy? Is it?” reminded me of something which I eventually remembered to be a Steve Coogan bit on The Day Today (see below) and overall it recalls the ghastly self-consciousness of Chuck Palahniuk (‘Annoying’ isn’t the right word for his book Choke, but it’s the first word that comes to mind) or even worse, Dave Eggers’ A Heartbreaking Work Of Staggering Genius, one of the few books I’ve been tempted to throw across the room before the end of the first chapter.
Over at Ragbag Gaw links to some authorly tips. I particularly like this pair from Elmore Leonard:
- Never use a verb other than "said" to carry dialogue. The line of dialogue belongs to the character; the verb is the writer sticking his nose in. But "said" is far less intrusive than "grumbled", "gasped", "cautioned", "lied". I once noticed Mary McCarthy ending a line of dialogue with "she asseverated" and had to stop reading and go to the dictionary.
- Never use an adverb to modify the verb "said" . . . he admonished gravely. To use an adverb this way (or almost any way) is a mortal sin. The writer is now exposing himself in earnest, using a word that distracts and can interrupt the rhythm of the exchange. I have a character in one of my books tell how she used to write historical romances "full of rape and adverbs".
These are fine rules and should only be broken for purposes of irony or bathos (eg. “If you do that I’ll break every bone in your body, rip your head and limbs off, bury the body parts and dance on the grave,” he explained helpfully).
It's difficult not to write too much prose. Re-writing largely consists of deleting. God knows what Charles P Pierce’s first drafts look like but he should read more Jane Austen and Michael Wharton. Well, everyone should.