Monday, 4 May 2015

'His head literally exploded.'

According to the current Writing Magazine, the latest edition of Fowler's Dictionary of Modern English Usage says it's now acceptable to use 'literally' in a metaphorical sense.  So what word does one use when one wants to say that something literally did happen?

No-one is going to think that someone's head literally did explode (unless, I suppose, it's a battlefield scene). But what if someone was literally dancing with rage? Or was literally as white as a sheet? Was he or wasn't he?

I'm currently editing the novel I hope to publish soon, a crime/mystery set in Victorian London. One piece of advice to writers that I've found useful, and am trying to put into practice, is to be sure to extract every last piece of drama and tension from a scene. This obviously doesn't apply if two characters are discussing the case over a cup of tea. But if the heroine is in peril, then give her even more reason to be afraid, make the consequences of failure even more catastrophic. Without, one hopes, tipping over into purple prose and Gothic horror!

I'm also checking that all the small details of the plot hang together. When cutting, or changing the order of scenes and events, it's easy for something to fall through the cracks, so a crucial piece of information wasn't shared when it should have been, or one character tells another about something she has not yet done.

Then it will be one final read through for typos, missing punctuation marks, and so on, before uploading.

Then on to the next one.


  1. Oh, dear. It's at times like this that I start wondering if I'm finally getting out of touch with modern developments. We'll be told next that it's okay to say 'she was very pregnant'..
    I really hate sounding like an old curmurgeon. I suppose it's a question of register - I never bother much when someone says something like 'she was literatlly off her head with grief' but I hate it when someone writes it.

  2. 'Almost unique' is a pet hate of mine. Something either is unique or it isn't.

    And seen in Writers' News just now - 'fiction novel'. What other kind of novel is there?

    If any one ever says 'would of' is acceptable, I'll know civilisation as we know it has ended.