Avoid Annoying Alliteration by Andy Scheer
I enjoy beautiful literary writing when I see it. But like those of California Condors, the sightings are both wondrous and rare.
Instead, the samples I see labeled as literary often remind me of girls trying to use makeup for the first time. If a little is good, a lot must be better. Rather than highlight the natural beauty, it calls attention to itself—and the lack of skillful technique.
For me, excessive alliteration serves as a dead giveaway of an author trying too hard. Like a child in a Christmas pageant waving and shouting, “Hi, Mom!” the action calls attention to itself—and away from the content.
This past week as I prepped for a writers conference, I looked at the opening chapter of a historical romance (not a genre I'd ordinarily consider). From the first sentence, the alliterations almost knocked me over.
Clara’s arms were wildly whaling about in the open air as she sought to grasp the looming figure that stood at the top of the cliff-head.
But the author was just warming up. Two sentences later, she sprang this five-pointer:
It did not flinch, even though her screams echoed off the cliffs strata until they were suddenly silenced by a sharp shrilling strike in the low tidewater at the base of the cliff.
How can a reader keep her mind on the story when every other sentence shouts and waves? If a little bit of makeup is good, stop there.