Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Write the Letter

     Clive Staples Lewis, better known simply as C.S. Lewis -- the creator of the Chronicles of Narnia and author of numerous books on theology -- was a prolific letter writer.  So many letters in fact, that there is a book  titled C.S. Lewis' Letters to Children.        

     Following the success of his Narnia chronicles, thousands of young fans wrote Lewis.  Their letters are full of admiration and questions.  He tried to respond to each and every one.  And apparently, he kept up his correspondence with some of his young fans for many years.  Many of the letters discuss the land of Narnia, while others are full of practical advice about writing and telling a good story.  From Letters to Children, here are some fantastic writing tips to a young American fan:

"What really matters is:–

1. Always try to use the language so as to make quite clear what you mean and make sure your sentence couldn't mean anything else.

2. Always prefer the plain direct word to the long, vague one. Don'timplement promises, but keep them.

3. Never use abstract nouns when concrete ones will do. If you mean "More people died" don't say "Mortality rose."

4. In writing. Don't use adjectives which merely tell us how you want us to feel about the thing you are describing. I mean, instead of telling us a thing was "terrible," describe it so that we'll be terrified. Don't say it was "delightful"; make us say "delightful" when we've read the description. You see, all those words (horrifying, wonderful, hideous, exquisite) are only like saying to your readers, "Please will you do my job for me."

5. Don't use words too big for the subject. Don't say "infinitely" when you mean "very"; otherwise you'll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite.

Thanks for the photos. You and Aslan both look v. well. I hope you'll like your new home.

With love
C.S. Lewis"

     I can only imagine how many lives he touched by responding to each and every letter. And we can all -- regardless of age -- read those words and work everyday to become better writers.  

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