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“I used to be that kind of writer,” she declared.

“What kind?” he asked.

“The sort who thought every sentence spoken in my novel needed some kind of verb or adjective,” she explained.

“Or adverb,” he whispered softly.

“Yes, it’s true, nobody ever just ‘said’ anything in my books,” she laughed.

“I know what you mean,” he wryly replied.

Now here’s the same conversation, decluttered:

“I used to be that kind of writer,” she said.

“What kind?”

“The sort who thought every sentence spoken in my novel needed some kind of verb or adjective.”

“Or adverb,” he said.

She laughed. “Yes, it’s true, nobody ever just ‘said’ anything in my books.”

“I know what you mean.”

See how cleaner and faster the second version reads? In a simple conversation with only two speakers, it’s not even necessary to identify who is speaking every time. The exchange is easy enough to follow, like a tennis match.

I’m a self-confessed word junky. The attic in my house has nothing on the similes, synonyms and prepositions crammed into my brain. I love the lovely words. Especially words like ‘lovely.’ But, like any addiction, they can become crutches and can drag down your writing.

Some punctuation, too, turns into crutches when overused. Darby and I chuckle when reading our older books. Seems our characters screamed a lot of their conversations, thanks to the ever-present exclamation points! Every writer ought to tape over that key on their keyboard as a reminder. Not that an exclam can’t ever be used, but it should be used sparingly, like a strong spice.

I will never be the purist or Zen kind of writer who crafts simple sentences. I will cling to my beloved adjectives until my dying day. But the more aware I am of my word mania, the better I can rein it in. My writing will be the better for it.

~B

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