Lynn Viehl’s The Devil’s Writing Dictionary: Part 1

Lynn Viehl, who has previously graced us with The Devil’s Publishing Dictionary, now offers The Devil’s Writing Dictionary Part I. Lots of great entries, but since I’m working (okay, technically I’m blogging at the moment, not working, but you know what I mean) on the revisions for Terra Insegura, the ones that struck me were:

Chapter: 1) a too-long or too-short installment of the story, made up of one or more scenes, which begins at an overly-contrived point the author decides is a revelation and ends at a plodding point the author views as suspenseful; 2) what a reader has to plow through to get the next tiny nugget of plot information; 3) the maximum amount of a story that an unhappy reader will skim through before a) throwing the book against a wall, b) putting the book through a wood chipper, or c)writing a one-star review on


Climax: the least exciting, but often inadvertently the funniest, part of the story.


Dialogue: the aimless, dull conversations conducted by the characters in a story in order to kill time before they engage in the next empty love/wild monkey sex/tedious action/pointless violence/boring scientific discovery/brutal attack by horrific monster scene.


Exposition: The beginning of the story, during which nothing much but weather conditions are introduced.

Falling Action: the aftermath of the climax of the story, during which the author explains all the crap s/he couldn’t work into the story logically; can double as a viable script for the last scene of any Scooby-Do cartoon.


Metaphor: a figure of speech in which a term or phrase is applied to something to which it is not literally applicable in order to suggest a resemblance and make the author appear clever and sensitive to life versus being the emotionally stunted voluntary shut-in they are in reality; sometimes a thinly-veiled comparison between some hideous monster and the author’s former love interest, editor or day job boss.

I also admit, commercial-fiction genre-writer that I am, that I got a kick out of this one:

Literature: any written work that fulfills the following criteria: 1) doesn’t sell well, 2) has no plot, 3) is written in high-end language by a well-educated substance abuser who sponges off honest, hard-working relatives while despairing of anyone ever understanding his/her pain, 4) features unnecessary abuse of characters (often horrible), 5) is depressing and utterly without merit and 6) always ends badly.

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