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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Too Many Words Spoil the Message

When I critique another’s chapters, I leave comments such as ‘use simple verbs, simple nouns’.

My reasoning is clear. Keep the message simple so the reader isn’t looking through a mesh of adverbs and adjectives. 

This is especially important on the first page.

Look at it this way. You are introducing me to a stranger. I know nothing about this person and it is up to you to tell me without overburdening me  with unnecessary detail. I’m already in an unfamiliar place, surrounded by tension from unknown sources. Don’t flood me with information.

At this time, Voice is more important than descriptions.

Avoid the wishy-washy phrases such as “The car seemed to drift to the right” “People tend to say the stupidest things when confronted by a moose” and “Cotton fabric sort of wicks the moisture away”. Either they do or they don’t. Take a stand, dang it.

Another no-no is flamboyant phrases that Explain Too Much.

How would you re-write this sentence?
“The vole was huddled in frozen terror under the crumbling bark of a fallen tree.”

The rules to that all-important first page:
  • Simple nouns
  • Simple verbs
  • Voice as opposed to Descriptions 

Now go forth and show me your edit.


Laura said...

eek... I wrote a first draft a year ago, promptly got terrified and put the thing away. Maybe it's time to unearth and simplify. Good advice

Tara Tyler said...

kiss, right?

but then i hear i need more descriptive words...i guess it depends on the action
the above sentence is described in effective detail, but if the scene isnt important then, "the frightened vole hid in a log."

Donna Hole said...

"The vole huddled in terror beneath a fallen tree."

I tend to be verbose however :)


Kimberlee Turley said...

I'm a big advocate of cutting out the non-committal phrases.

Don't start to cross the room. CROSS IT! The only time you should "begin" to do something is if half way through the action, something else more exciting interrupts it.