Modern critique-circle editors constantly hammer me on using “too many exclamation points!” while struggling to say such advice in their calmest non-exclamatory voice. I surmise this to be a modern preference. But is it good writing?
I am currently reading Joyce Carol Oates’ collection of “American Gothic Tales,” most recently re-acquainting myself with Poe’s “The Black Cat.” What did I find?
Fifteen exclamation points in all! Three in one paragraph!
“Heaven Forbid!” I can almost hear my reviewers shudder.
I wonder if these modern editors would dare take Poe and editor Oates to task over the perceived glut of exclamations?
How would these modern editors handle a heated argument? A knock-down drag-out name-calling fest? The presidential election debates?
I just find it quite silly to insist on a writing style that propounds:
“Help. He’s cutting my arm off. Aiiieeee. It hurts,” he screamed.
As for myself, I think I can live with the maxim of one exclamation point per scene.
But one per story (which is a common demand)? I am not convinced.
I will continue to keep an eye out for this as I read more, especially as I compare older versus newer horror/suspense/mystery classics. Afterwards, I’ll append my findings to this entry, or revisit later in a new post.