On not using words.

“Brevity is the soul of wit.”–Shakespeare

“I try to leave out the parts that people skip.” –Elmore Leonard

“Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very’. Your editor will delete it, and your writing will be just as it should be.” –Mark Twain

For a wordy bunch, writers sure talk a lot about not using words. Do we recognize it as self-indulgence? Is it because we love the sound of our own voice? Or rather, the look of our own words crawling across a page?

I’ve said it before, but writing for me is all about telling a story, and the worst thing that can happen to a good story is for it to drag on too long or include too many details. I don’t need to know all the details…get to the good stuff.

My dad tells a good story for a quiet guy, and I think the secret for him is two-fold. One, he doesn’t talk all that much, so when he opens his mouth, people listen. Two, his stories tend to be pretty brief. When I think about telling a story, I think about my dad, and I think as much about what I don’t want to say as what I do.

It’s the power of silence.

When we let our characters or our narrator be silent, it can be as powerful as the choicest phrase. Likewise, when something isn’t told explicitly in a narrative, I think it invests a reader in a way that spelling something out doesn’t. As a reader, I like having to figure things out on my own, so as a writer, I try to do the same. I hope I will always err on the side of telling readers too little, rather than too much.

That’s my take. What do you think?

E

Posted in Writing.

4 Comments

  1. You use the power of silence most effectively, which evokes music or art as much as it does the written word.

  2. It is so strange to me that you posted this today, because just a few days ago, I was thinking the very same thing about your writing.

    I was going through my favorite’s list on fanfiction, and paused when I came to The River. I fully intend to print it out, put it in a folder and save it for the day when Charlaine’s 13th and final SVM book comes out. I have a sad feeling that there won’t be a HEA for Eric and Sookie in her world, but thankfully in my mind it really won’t matter. I will just pull out my treasured copy of The River and a large cup of coffee, and then all with be right with the world.

    I have read your story more than once, and SEVERAL times, it hasn’t gone without notice the power your words hold. ‘Less is more’ couldn’t hold more truth than as displayed in your writing. I think that is one of the things that held me so captive from the start. You allow the reader’s imagination to do its work. You have the amazing ability to create a vivid, exciting world, and draw people in. Your writing is powerful.

    I hope you realize how talented you truly are. I have no doubt that I will someday be buying one of your published books.

    Take care!!

  3. I completely agree that what is left unsaid or to the imagination can be more powerful than any actual written words. You do that well, and it has inspired me to take that approach with my own writing.

    I really enjoy the “thoughts on writing” type posts, and have thought about doing that myself. I put a discussion on yuku but maybe I should just do a blogpost!

    I look forward to reading more of your work. I’m saving the River for a rainy day.

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