Less Strunk, More King?
I’m actually a disciple of Stephen King’s On Writing far more than Strunk & White, truth be told, and the teachers I had while getting my degree (and my current boss who is the best editor I’ve ever had the pleasure to work with. Every time she points out something that isn’t good enough, I feel delicious glee).
As with everything in life, in general, I despise generalizations. With that out there, you’ll see there are exceptions to every rule — and these are pet peeves, not rules. Is there a reason for a brand? Then by god, use it. Telling me a character is dressed in Target very well could speak volumes about her characters, far more than any verbose description about frugality, or poverty, or lack of fashion sense, or thriftiness, or just generally not giving a shit. Mentioning she shops at Target, in conjunction with subtle clues shown through the narrative, not told, that’s gold.
Same for descriptions. Let’s not generalize life. In Kite Runner, the narrator talks about walking around Spreckels Lake and watching the boats in Golden Gate Park. I felt a jolt of glee when I read that because, when I lived in San Francisco, that was three blocks from my house. I ran and walked my dog there all the time. And if you Google Spreckels? You’ll see the boats. You’ll know how he felt.
Compare that to some of these screenshots in (R)evolution. (This book is actually the reason I started writing this post.) None of these very specific locations or brands matter to the plot. Driving near a hospital does not need a road — it’s distracting. The car being a Honda Accord is not important; it being old, or beat up, or rusted, or something else — that would give me a picture. Same goes for the southwest parking lot — I am pretty sure I know which one he’s talking about (it’s a super annoying parking lot) but is that what I’m supposed to be getting out of this passage?
Also included, a small excerpt of my “couldn’t help but” highlights from this book. I do this for all books. This one had a ton of them. Fingernails on chalkboard, man.