Roald Dahl responds.

When a 17-year-old boy wrote to legendary author Roald Dahl in 1980 asking for feedback on a short story he’d written, he hardly dared hope he would get a response.

When the writer responded with a typed letter, personally signed, budding author Jay Williams was ecstatic.

But the acerbic Dahl’s advice was anything but the stuff of fairytales: “Learn how to write short sentences and how to eschew all those beastly adjectives.”

“As a callow youth, I was expecting him to tell me how marvellous the story was, and offer to introduce me to his publisher,” laughed Williams, now 51.


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1 thought on “Roald Dahl responds.

  1. I would not say “She was a tall girl with a bosom” OR “She was a tall girl with a shapely, prominent bosom”. For one thing, there’s two of them–bosoms. If the character is feeling naughty and is fulfilling hedonistic desires, they’re “tits”. If the character is a starry eyed romantic, then it’s “breasts”. But both of these terms are a bit over-used. Synonyms would be a welcome change but not at the expense of changing the tone or voice of the story. Here’s what i’d go with: “She was a voluptuous vixen of an Amazon with the kind of tits that perked out like the headlights of a 1970’s American muscle car; yes, her breasts had a milky white sheen with nipples mauve, succulent, and sweetly antitoxicant.” Remember, the more adjectives the better. What works in MadLibs is doubly true in literature.

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