I submit to you, dear reader, a list of five sentences from The Five People You Meet In Heaven, (presented on an image taken from the author’s website) which I hope will demonstrate a simple stylistic principle: vague superlatives fail to impress.
Unless you are telling a bedtime story to your child, if you tend towards describing things as beyond imagination, beyond description, or beyond experience, you call into question your basic qualification as a writer. But who am I to argue with a best-seller? In the context of his novel, these sentences created an eerie echo, as again and again the author made a show of his failure to imagine. In the form of a list, some of that strange circling-back-to-a-narrative-throwing-up-of-hands-and-shaking-of-the-head-in-flabbergastery has been lost. What remains is a simple reminder that to try to wow your audience by describing something as “the most ________ ever” doesn’t work.
Oh, it spent 95 weeks on the NYT bestseller list? Okay. Maybe it does work. But not for me.
Your task, dear reader, is to create a list of no fewer than three quotations which demonstrates the failure or success of a particular stylistic strategy.
As always, for an alternative assignment, provide your own notes on this book in particular.