Think of a book or a story where you became so involved and became part of the story.
Where you were transported out of yourself and forgot that you were reading.
Your mind would have been caught up in the beauty of imagination. Reading is an exercise in imagination. Our minds wander into the story. We visualise the scenes. We feel and we experience BUT what if: A story has a setting that is described in infinite detail, sentence after sentence.
If you read “It was a perfect spring day. The air was warm. The sun beamed down from a clear blue sky while a soft zephyr rustled the leaves and flowers burst with colour. The busy bees hummed in an out of their myriad choices. An emerald carpet of grassland crossed the paddocks and in the distance the lowing of cows settled their newborn calves. The lazy stream wandered past the villagers ambling to market with their baskets full of vegetables and fruits.”
Now, what’s wrong with the dialogue here? You don’t need your imagination as you are being told what to think. And it can take some effort. It can also break the flow of your mind in reading the story. You are being told what a perfect spring day is according to the writer.
If, instead of the wordiness you read, “It was the sort of magic spring day that made her soul rejoice as the villagers ambled to market with their baskets full of the earth’s abundance.”
Would a picture of a perfect day come to your mind’s eye—without even consciously being aware? It’s a fact, as writers we can write too much. Less is more. Less description, less absolutes. Guide the reader into his or her own imaginative mind. What they need is a writer who, with a few words, can lead them gently to that place where they want to be. And then they will become immersed in your story. Infer things to your reader. Give them hints and tease them a little as you take them along with you.
Of course, there are times when accurate description is important. There is no hard and fast rule that covers every situation but what you, as a writer, are looking for is that balance where your characters, your story, your descriptions are sharpened and textured. Not too little so that the reader can’t make his or her sense, and not too much that the reader is drowning in adjectives and information overload.
We have all read books where we have flicked entire pages because we just didn’t want any more information or descriptions.
Make every word count.
Remember the goal of what you are writing.
Coco Chanel always said; “Before you go out the door, take off one item. And then you will be stylish.”
Pare it right down. Don’t tell the reader what every function of the wing does etc. Let the butterfly just fly!
As writers, we are fearful that our readers won’t “get” what we are trying to convey and so we over describe. But, we are also readers. And we do “get” it, don’t we, without lengthy lessons in the midst of the text.
As a fun exercise, go to something that you are working on, or something completed or even a published book, find a passage and now highlight words that don’t have any impact, or words, or sayings that are old and worn out. Now, replace them with something fresh and punchy. Something rich. Something that’s yours. If you were paying to use adjectives, why use three when you can use one, if it’s all you require.
Put a value on your words. And make them your own, not hackneyed descriptors that have run their course. And always, every day, listen for new words. Write them down and save them. New expressions. New descriptions. They’re all out there just waiting for you to find them. And for you to put them to work!
You are a writer, but best of all, you can be an original writer.
Written by Natasha Gilmour