Editors, Cox & Gilbert
The Introduction of this book is the most entertaining section. The authors swoon about Victorian writers putting together hundreds of Ghost Stories. In Victorian England Christmas was a good time for ghost stories, an expectation Charles Dickens capitalized on with A Christmas Carole. The authors say there were strict formats that demanded quality writing. However, a reader’s experience differs. Some stories are chronological. Hence, write about one character, repeat the same traits and activities about the next. But for the activities of the third character, the author uses, “Meanwhile, this or that…” The thread of the story is lost, and the reader can guess which character – one, two or three – has or deserves the floor.
I stopped reading in A. Y. Akerman, The Miniature, when I stumbled into the following paragraph:
‘At the breakfast table I was moody and thoughtful, which my friend perceiving,
attempted a joke; but I was in no humour to receive it, when Maria, in a
compassionating tone, remarked I looked unwell, and that I should take a walk
or a ride before breakfast, adding that she and George S— had walked for an hour
or more in the plantation near the house. Though this announcement was certainly
but ill calculated to ease my mind, it was yet made with such an artless air, that my
more gloomy surmises vanished; and I rallied;…’
Being in a disagreeable mood at the breakfast table without humor and appearing unwell, one might disregard comments, but to reveal anything about all the persons at the table, tell what the joke was. Perhaps friends looking sickly in Victorian England were invited to walk or ride interrupting breakfast and avoiding whatever substance they could consume. Go outdoors and get pneumonia!
However, the character has no mind of his own. He thought of none of those remedies. Note this character appears whimsical and supercilious with no will or fortitude of his own:
Through his announcement was certainly but ill calculated to afford perfect ease
to my mind, it was yet made with such an artless air, that my more gloomy
surmises vanished, and I rallied;…
As far as the reader can tell, the author of the suggestion came to the table with hand fulls of uppers and passed them around. This character popped a couple and was set for the morning. Suspending disbelief which this paragraph requires, all readers can see it is variable and nonsense: Note, the character describes himself as “moody and thoughtful;” it becomes “unwell” and next in the character’s mind he is “gloomy.” Why does the author of this piece drop in adverbs, “but ill calculated” and “yet made.”
This is not acceptable writing in middle school. Writing must make sense – communicate clearly – to be good, solid and worthy.