Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Writer Tip: Less is More

My two cents worth of writing advice for the day...
Less is more.
Places where "more" kills your writing (complete with cheesy examples):
  • explanations
    • "The tribe of elves needed to suck the blood of their victims during the last night of the festival because Zorko, the warrior god of bloodletting, had gotten his start centuries before on that certain night, and so his powerful magic was more available to his elfin ancestors during this time frame because... yada yada yada."
  • descriptions
    • "The dark green velvet chair was placed on the left side of the room at an angle near the doorway, across from a carved wooden table upon which a lace doily..."
  • emotional dialogue
    • "I just love you so much," he whispered.  "I have never been complete without you, and now, I'm so incredibly complete because I have you.  I mean, I'm so damned complete.  You complete me.  I love you."
  • narrative attempting to convince the reader to feel a certain way
    • "Johnny had gotten the wrong end of the stick.  Everyone treated him so badly, and no one ever considered his feelings.  Poor, poor Johnny.  But really, he was a hero.  He was selfless and bold and... Etc."
Instead, try getting to the essence of the scene or description.  
  • Explain the necessities during the course of action.
    • "Calling upon the dark magic of Zorko, the elves fell upon their unwitting victims on the final night of the festival, when the power was at its strongest." 
  • Add a couple of key details during description, and allow the reader to place them, unless placement is absolutely necessary.  Include all this in the course of action.
    • "I sank into the dark green velvet chair and propped my muddy feet unceremoniously on the carved wooden table.  My eyes settled on the starched lace doily, now crumpled under my boot.  I glanced at the old woman who was scowling at me."
  • Overdone emotional dialogue = cheese.  Just like in real life, love is more believable through action than through words, and that happens in the rest of your story.  Balance can be tricky in certain situations where you want to get a lot of impact.  Remember not to repeat yourself too many times.  That applies to extended repetition as well, unless you do something new with the emotion in question.  So... if you are inclined to over-emphasize your romance, edit like crazy:
    • "I love you," he whispered, his eyes filled with the pain of longing.
  • Instead of telling your reader how to feel, let them see through the eyes of another character, or the character in question:
    • "She turned her face away, not wanting to witness the pain in Johnny's eyes.  Her anger would not allow her to feel sorry for him, but still, a part of her remembered the time he'd taken her place-- and her punishment."
This is just a starting point for the "less is more" rule, but hopefully you get the idea.  It's one of the most common issues I see with developing writers.  The good news is that a little awareness can go a long way.  Keep your eye out for these things, especially during editing, and you can easily smooth out anything that was accidentally overdone.

As with all writing "rules", I just want to say...  break and bend it as necessary.  There are a few times when more is actually more.  

No comments:

Post a Comment