Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Your questions answered

BK ASKS: How do you find the time to write, in between satisfying your spouse, stopping the children fighting and cloning an army of radioactive gorillas?

Anne says: Spouse?

Emily says: Children?

Charlotte says: "Radioactive"?

BLUE ASKS: How long should a sentence be?

PC says: I was going to say 'as long as a piece of string', but someone has anticipated me there. What I would have meant by that is that a sentence, like a piece of string, needs to be an appropriate length for the use to which you are putting it.

That could be anything from 'Reader, I married him' (dramatic conveyance of a very important piece of information; works as a short exclamation; the culmination of the entire plot so gets a sentence all to itself) to 'Anybody may blame me who likes, when I add further, that, now and then, when I took a walk by myself in the grounds; when I went down to the gates and looked through them along the road; or when, while Adèle played with her nurse, and Mrs. Fairfax made jellies in the storeroom, I climbed the three staircases, raised the trap-door of the attic, and having reached the leads, looked out afar over sequestered field and hill, and along dim sky-line -- that then I longed for a power of vision which might overpass that limit; which might reach the busy world, towns, regions full of life I had heard of but never seen -- that then I desired more of practical experience than I possessed; more of intercourse with my kind, of acquaintance with variety of character, than was here within my reach.'

Which summarises an entire life situation and the gradual development of a particular frame of mind, and the reasons for it, and jigsaws all these things together with an epic effort of punctation* so you can see how the various factors are interdependent, like pudding ingredients.

* two dashes, four semi-colons, and fifteen commas

KATE ASKS: My favourite of all your novels is 'Villette'. Does this make me odd?

Charlotte says: No, of course not!

Emily says: Yes, very. But as your name is, I presume, Catherine, I shall not hold it against you. For the moment.

Anne says: You're asking us if you're odd?


  1. Question: comma or semi-colon?

    I've managed to reduce my use of the semi-colon greatly over the years (esp since leaving academia) but now rather wonder if this was a rather unnecessary manoeuvre.

    And what do you say to people who insist you are a pedant when you correct their colon/semi-colon foul ups? (Or, even worse, say: 'But I've seen it like that before'). Many would write the following (esp in a powerpoint display):

    Question; colon or semi-colon?

  2. To be pondered in the next post. Watch this space!