Friday, January 7, 2011

Boot Camp for Content Creators Lesson 4

Das Boot Kamp for Content Creators.

Lesson 4: Harsh awakenings and peaceful interludes.

Okay aspiring writers how're you doin'?

Have you finished reading The Elements of Style? Have you finished reading Stephen King's On Writing? Good.

Now you know something about writing. Something like the answer to the Q.s: How many parts of speech are there? Or, which of them must every sentence contain?

Yes, those things you now know. However, you are no Joseph Conrad, nor are you likely to be. Reality, though harsh on tender egos, must be faced. You, the aspiring content creator, are not likely to become a great writer. No one is Joseph Conrad, nor is anyone Mozart. They are not of this earth. Both have ascended to the content-creator's Pantheon leaving only certain holy treasures in our keeping.

On the other hand, you are yet of this earth. And being of this earth, it is appropriate, from time to time, to take up the task of appreciation. Let us do so now.

So, what does good writing look like? Seen any good writing lately?

You've seen some if you did your homework. Snippets of same in TEOS and SKOW. Did you like it? Nice, huh?

So what, if any, good news do I have for you? Well, the good news is that you too can become a good writer. Yes you! We all can properly aspire to create content by means of good writing practices. Let this be your goal. Modesty and determination in acolytes is fitting and proper.

Enough on good writing for the moment.

What then does apex-sine-qua-non-super-genius-nee-plus-ultra writing look like?

Many aspiring acolytes ask this question, in one form or the other. Some don't and end up reading Finnegan's Wake. In answer to those who do ask sincerely we cite the author widely viewed, by those with any sense, as the Mozart of prose, namely P. G. Wodehouse.

This Wodehouse fellow (pronounced as Woodhouse, not Boathouse as my dictation software had it) had a way with words that was Mozartian. Anyone can appreciate Mozart‘s music, but no one can write it. Likewise, no one writes like Wodehouse. Who does it better? Nobody, that‘s who.

Without further intro., we present the following excerpt from a classic Wodehouse masterpiece, Right Ho, Jeeves.


Chapter One

"Jeeves," I said, "may I speak frankly?"

"Certainly, sir.”

"What I have to say may wound you."

"Not at all, sir."

"Well, then --"

No -- wait. Hold the line a minute. I've gone off the rails.

I don't know if you have had the same experience, but the snag I always come up against when I'm telling a story is this dashed difficult problem of where to begin it. It's a thing you don't want to go wrong over, because one false step and you're sunk. I mean, if you fool about too long at the start, trying to establish atmosphere, as they call it, and all that sort of rot, you fail to grip and the customers walk out on you.

Get off the mark, on the other hand, like a scalded cat, and your public is at a loss. It simply raises its eyebrows, and can't make out what you're talking about.

And in opening my report of the complex case of Gussie Fink-Nottle, Madeline Bassett, my Cousin Angela, my Aunt Dahlia, my Uncle Thomas, young Tuppy Gossip, and the cook, Anatole, with the above spot of dialogue, I see that I've made the second of these two floaters.

I shall have to hark back a bit. And taking it for all in all, and weighing this against that, I suppose the affair may be said to have had its inception, if inception is the word I want, with the visit of mine to Cannes. If I hadn't gone to Cannes, I shouldn't have met the Bassett or bought that white mess jacket, and Angela wouldn't have met her shark, and Aunt Dahlia wouldn't have played baccarat.

Yes, most decidedly, Cannes is the point d'appui.

Right ho, then. Let me marshal my facts.

I went to Cannes -- leaving Jeeves behind, he having intimated that he did not wish to miss Ascot -- round about the beginning of June. With me traveled my Aunt Dahlia and her daughter Angela. Tuppy Gossip, Angela's betrothed, was to have been in the party, but at the last moment couldn't get away. Uncle Tom, Aunt Dahlia's husband remained at home, because he can't stick the south of France at any price.

So there you have the layout -- Aunt Daliah, Cousin Angela, and self off to Cannes about the beginning of June.

All pretty clear so far, what?

We stayed at Cannes about two months, and except for the fact that Aunt Dahlia lost her shirt at baccarat and Angela nearly got inhaled by a shark while aqua planing, a pleasant time was had by all.

On July the 25th, looking bronzed and fit, I accompanied aunt and child back to London. At 7:00 PM on July the 26th we alighted at Victoria. And at seven-twenty or thereabouts we parted with mutual expressions of esteem -- they shoved off in Aunt Dahlia's car to Brinkley Court, her place in Worcestershire, where they were expecting to entertain Tuppy in a day or two; I had to go to the flat, drop my luggage, clean up a bit, and put on the soup and fish preparatory to pushing around to the Drones for a bite of dinner.

And it was while I was at the flat, toweling the torso after a much needed rinse, that Jeeves, as we chatted of this and that -- picking up the threads, as it were -- suddenly brought the name of Gussy Fink-Nottle into the conversation.

As I recall it, the dialog ran something as follows:

Self: Well, Jeeves, here we are, what?

Jeeves: Yes, sir.

Self: I mean to say, home again.

Jeeves: Precisely, sir.

Self: Seems ages since I went away.

Jeeves: Yes, sir.

Self: Have a good time at Ascot?

Jeeves: Most agreeable, sir.

Self: Win anything,?

Jeeves: Quite a satisfactory sum, thank you, sir.

Self: Good. Well, Jeeves, what news on the Rialto?

Anybody been phoning or calling or anything during my abs.?

Jeeves: Mr. Fink-Nottle, sir, has been a frequent caller.

I stared. Indeed, it would not be too much to say that I gaped.

"Mr. Fink-Nottle?"

"Yes, sir."

"You don't mean Mr. Fink-Nottle? "

"Yes, sir. "

"But Mr. Fink-Nottle's not in London?"

"Yes, sir. "

"Well, I'm blowed."

And I'll tell you why I was blowed. I found it scarcely possible to give credence to his statement. This Fink-Nottle, you see, was one of those freaks you come across from time to time during life's journey who can't stand London. He lived year in and year out, covered with moss, in a remote village down in Lincolnshire, never even coming up for the Eaton and Harrow match. And when I asked him once if he didn't find the time hung a bit heavy on his hands, he said, no, because he had a pond in his garden and studied the habits of newts.

I couldn't imagine what could have brought the chap up to the great city. I would have been prepared to bet that as long as the supply of newts didn't give out, nothing could have shifted him from that village of his.

"Are you sure?"

"Yes, sir."

"You got the name correctly? Fink-Nottle?"

"Yes, sir."

"Well, it's the most extraordinary thing. It must be five years since he was in London. He makes no secret of the fact that the place gives him the pip. Until now, he has always stayed glued to the country, completely surrounded by newts."


"Newts, Jeeves. Mr. Fink-Nottle has a strong newt complex. You must have heard of newts. Those little sort of lizard things that charge about in ponds."

"Oh, yes, sir. The aquatic members of the family Salamandridae which constitute the genus Molge. "

"That's right. Well, Gussie has always been a slave to them. He used tokeep them at school."

"I believe young gentleman frequently do sir."



1. Why were “Aunt Dahlia and Cousin Angela” capitalized while “aunt” and “daughter” sometimes not? Which TEOS rules apply? Give an example of a well placed adverb that you admire in the passage.

2. Note the skillful use of grammar and punctuation. Choose a favorite sentence and explain why you like its style. Favoritism is a virtue, so pick one you like. What is elegant, expressive, humorous, riveting, and otherwise interesting about it?

3. Though not mentioned by name, the above was written from the point of view (or POV) of Bertie Wooster, the traveler to Cannes and resident of the London flat. Use of POV is a powerful tool when skillfully applied. Explain how the Author informs the reader about the story’s characters and their setting by writing from Bertie’s POV. Hint: The ongoing conversation with the reader from Bertie‘s POV is particularly useful in advancing the story.

4. Summarize what was imparted to the reader about Bertie, his friends and family, and about Jeeves. How were story elements such as plot, character, conflict, heart, hope, etc. advanced by the passage?

5. Did you laugh from time to time as you read? If so, how many times? Which is your favorite laugh line ? What was funny about it? Did imagery contribute?

6. Finally, about the use of context clues. The passage luxuriates in context clues. Let’s try a few. Guessing the answer is ok, but explain your guess.What do you suppose the Drones is? What is Victoria? and who was Victoria? What are Eaton and Harrow? Are they rivals? Long-time rivals? What do you think point d’appui means? And what language is it? Pick three more informative context clues and explain what you gleaned therefrom.

Gentle student, do not attempt to get the correct answer, only think, write, and explain your answers. I will tell you later if you are right or wrong, and why.


  1. This mysterious fragment of a larger text was recovered from a hard disk crash and recovery.

    Interestingly, one can reconstruct the entire book from this fragment. You know, like LiLu in The Fifth Element.

  2. Found two typos so far. It's Tuppy Glossip. Comma seems un-needed in "...ask this question, in one form or the other."