Sunday, February 12, 2006

Lessons I should have learned earlier

I came to writing through a love of reading and a father who could make the old Bush Ballads real. Listening to him, I rode on the wing with the Man from Snowy River, chasing the wild bush horses, stood with the Boss of the Admiral Lynch while Balmaceda’s enemies pounded his boat to pieces and “saw the vision splendid of the sunlit plains extended” with Clancy as we went Queensland droving.

It took me years to relearn the two simple lessons this should have taught me.

(1) In the books I enjoyed best, I had no consciousness of reading, only of the story unfolding before me; and
(2) My father spoke with voice and knowledge of the Bush.

These distill into:

(1) Don’t intrude between the reader and the events of the story; and
(2) Do your research.

Edward George Bulwer Lytton, of “It was a dark and stormy night” fame, was guilty of the first and I can no longer achieve the suspension of disbelief required to enjoy several, otherwise good, writers because they strayed into my world and got it terribly wrong.

Can any writer afford to lose even one reader?
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