Speling Things Rong

May 6, 2014 § Leave a comment


A thing I love is intelligent and purposeful misspelling. Kurt Cobain didn’t bother spelling things right but from him, it was subversive and interesting – it was an intimate peek into his chaotic mind.

Stephen King uses misspellings to amazing effect. ‘Pet Sematary’ because of the children using it to honour their dead pets; clever aphasia in Duma Key that not only shocks us into sympathy, but gives us broken language that describes the protagonist’s feelings perfectly – little clues and secrets, like a code concealed in idiosyncratic error.

Over and over I repeat ‘Learn the rules in order to break them intelligently’. Ignoring prescriptivist ideas of ‘proper’ language is one of the keys to truly affecting prose. But if one doesn’t actually know how to do it ‘the right way’ in the first place, inconsistencies will occur and break the magic – the back story will shatter. This isn’t punk; this isn’t anarchy. This is clever people behaving badly because they can.

This zephyr of thought comes about because I’ve just ordered Stephen King’s non-fiction On Writing and Secret Windows, which I’m beyond excited to read. I’ve devoured Lisey’s Story*, Different SeasonsBlaze and Duma Key tens of times, Nightmares & Dreamscapes long ago, and Carrie for the first time recently. One of the very best things about being a grownup is being able to BUY books, instead of rescuing a bizarre mix from trains and stacks of charity shop throw-out.

Again, in King’s own words: If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.

* Funnily enough, the dead husband in Lisey’s Story reminds me of Kurt Cobain. Tortured, childlike, of another place. I can imagine Kurt going to Boo’ya Moon to get away from the pain of existence – and then being gobbled up by his own terrifying imagination.

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