Kootenai River in NW Montana, near Canadian Border

Kootenai River in NW Montana, near Canadian Border
photo by Gene Tunick of Eureka, Montana

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Tip O'Day for Writers #70

Guest blogger Franz McLaren says “Less is more.”

Over the years I have had many valuable tips from notable writers. However, one stands out above all others. This one came from Del Howison (author, actor, Stoker-winning editor, and co-owner, with his wife Sue, of Dark Delicacies). His tip can be boiled down to three words; Less is More.

It is true that most classic literature is drowned in adjectives. But there is a reason. A century and a half ago few people could afford books. When they did manage to grab one they wanted it to last. Hence Dostoyevsky. Few modern publishers would consider publishing him. Today there are far too many distractions available and writers must cater to a general ADHD if they wish to survive. A faster pace creates a sense of tension between the author and the reader drawing them on before they can set themselves and prepare for the next revelation.

Less is more also applies to how much an author should convey. The great draw of reading, over any other form of entertainment, is that it allows the reader to create the scenery. No matter how we try as authors, the book will always be in the mind of the reader. Take the following example:

"Through heat shimmers, a dozen silhouettes rose above the horizon. They were coming and, out here, there was no place to hide."

Twenty-two words that describe little. However, most readers will develop an inner view of this world and what is happening.

For me, the most important part of editing is in removing that which adds less than it provides. The object of a well written line is not in how much of the author's perspective it portrays, but in how much it allows the reader to become a part of the tale by making it their own.

There's another reason classic authors like Dickens threw buckets of adjectives into their works. They were paid by the word. So you might see a sentence such as:

"He was a large man, a really, really, really, really large man."


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