The Good, The Bad, and The Fusty
by Dave Smith
When I was young my mom used to admonish me, “if you got nothin good to say just keep your damn mouth shut.” (Mom was very direct.)
I liked to argue with her so I’d come back with a comment resembling, “Well what if there was something bad going to happen and hurt someone if I didn’t tell about a bad thing?” To which—after a three-second hitch and an evil eye—she’d snap, “Go outside and play and stop bothering me.”
The Good: I found another website for writers that I think is super-duper. It’s hilotutor.com . Obviously the young lady who is in charge lives in Hawaii, and she tutors. She loves words, and on her site, in the archives, she delves deep into their meanings and uses. Kinda like the soul I mentioned before.
If you want to really, really understand words, check it out. Now, it isn’t a dictionary, so the number of entries is limited, but what’s there is awesome, and you’ll find a bunch more stuff I’m going to let you discover on your own. Click on “…& archived issues.”
The Bad: I sometimes fall for 20% off specials on writer’s books, and I definitely buy when I see 40% markdowns. This results in my having a few duds on my shelf. Against my mother’s advice, and at the risk of offending at least one of you, here’s one I suggest you don’t spend your money on (at least not until maybe 80% off): Story Engineering by Larry Brooks.
Before you throw those tomatoes, let me explain. The title should have told me this wasn’t the book for me. That’s right, it’s a GD textbook; one you should have only if in school you wore bowties and floods and your best friend was a calculator.
Each topic in the tome has seven subtopics which have three subheadings, all of which have five important bullets, every one referring to another chapter with more related topics. You can’t ace the test (write a good story) unless you have a photographic memory.
It hurt my head!
I don’t want to engineer things. If I did, I would work for LEGO designing new gubbins. I just want to write. Can you help me do that without abusing my mental faculties?
If you want to test my hypothesis, you can borrow my copy—no, you can have my copy. Caveat: you can always find a tidbit, even in the worst books, so feel free to contact my customer complaint department.
The Fusty: don’t you just love that word? I do. In addition to tickling the tongue and making you giggle when you say it, it’s mostly self-explanatory. Even if you don’t have a dictionary, or if you’ve never seen the word before, you could probably use it in a sentence. It’s a fun word, don’t you think? I can tell you’re going to use it soon; maybe on Thanksgiving to describe the bathroom after Uncle Cletus uses it.
Now try this on for size: sesquipedalian. Sure, it’s long, but even if it were short would you have a clue what it meant? Me neither. I have to look it up every time I see it, which is too often. It’s a fusty word.
Your choice—fusty or sesq-u-i … whatever.
I’m on my way out to play.
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