Saturday, June 20, 2009

Make Yourself Invisible

As writers, we are, at times, tempted to show off our skill. We want to write that amazing word picture of the windswept coastline or give a detailed description of our favorite character. We are artists, and words are our medium...

Okay, let's get real. Yes, writers use words to create pictures for their readers, but they also use words to tell stories. Too much description, however, will bog down a story; it may even stop it in its tracks. Personally, I'll take a well-written descriptive sentence over a lumbering paragraph every time. Maybe that makes me a cretin, I don't know. But what I do know is that I'm not alone in this opinion.

Today, the editing blog The Blood-Red Pencil posted a link to an essay written by Elmore Leonard entitled "Easy on the Hooptedoodle". Some of the hints include not opening with a discussion on the weather, not going into too much detail in our character descriptions, and not to use words like 'suddenly'. If you are unfamiliar with Leonard's work, I highly recommend picking up one of his books. His prose is tightly written and full of action yet contains vivid descriptions and interesting characters. The man is a terrific writers and knows what he's talking about in this essay!

Putting your thumbprint squarely on your manuscript is as bad of an idea as putting it in the middle of the pie you just baked. You might appreciate it, but others probably will not.


Lady Euphoria Deathwatch said...

Hi Elle,

I am of the same mind, but I don't think I follow it like I should. I fall into stamping myself in the work from time to time, even though I hate finding it in my reading of others works.

I like to paint the walls of the room to my own liking in the fiction I read. I find it more comfortable that way. I am more engaged as a reader.

But saying that, there are times I need the stage fully set so I can get the most out of the experience.

The trick is to find the perfect middle ground for the piece at hand.

That is why I think we all have favorite authors. The ones that speak to us in the way we like best. Meeting us where we live yet challenging us to move forward.

Hugs, Euphoria

Elle Scott said...

You put that so well! You are very right about finding that middle ground. There are books with a lot of description that I've just loved. But then again, there are some that are so ponderous, that I skip parts (something I hate to do!) Great comment.

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