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Less is More

At times you will want your prose to be as sparse as possible. For example, when you’re writing a fight scene, it’s no time to slow down your pacing with long descriptions, or to ramble on about the vicissitudes of life. Can you imagine how that might read?

“Trayvor’s sword flicked forward with a burst, like the tongue of an asp as it tastes the air. Only this time it tasted the orc’s blood.

“Oh, how Trayvor wearied of this. Orcs again, attacking in his favorite inn. He’d only come for a nice stout ale, dark and cold from the Innkeeper Gormath’s cellars! It had been three days since he’d had a fine brew, and now this!

“As the orc fell away, its red eyes bulging in its squinty green face, there was terror in its eyes. Even a hog knows when it’s going to die, and orcs are far cleverer than hogs. This one had a black iron nose ring in its left nostril, and it gaped its mouth wide as it staggered backward, clutching a stool for support, its steaming breath hissing out in a cry, its yellow fangs slicing the air. The creature was surprisingly well dressed for an orc, all in black leather, like a movie producer.

“’Grissshta!’ it called. Whether it was the name of the orc’s lover or a child, Trayvor did not know, but he suddenly grieved for his mortal enemy.

“Trayvor glanced up into the corner of the room, there above the firepit where a spinnerdog tread a weary circle, still roasting a ham above the hot coals even with the battle going on. There where the ceiling met the walls a yellow garden spider harvested a bluebottle fly.

We are all caught in death’s web, Trayvor mused. Today I am the spider, but my time is coming soon. Someday, I shall be the fly. . . .”

Oy, I think you see what I mean. I’ve read scenes like that a hundred times as new authors struggle to bring a fight scene to life. You don’t need all of that. It just gets in the way.

Similarly, I’ve seen those moments where a young woman suddenly gushes with newly discovered love, and the author will seek ways to convince us that her love is purer, larger, and nobler than any love that has ever blossomed within a woman’s breast.

That’s nice, but it doesn’t work. Your goal is not to describe how your character feels, but to create an experience that makes the reader feel the desired emotion. Your goal isn’t to describe how your heroine feels, it’s to make the reader fall in love.

Very often, it is not the overwrought description of an incident that arouses the emotion, but a nice economical depiction that simply makes the reader feel as he or she should feel.

Sometimes, less is more.

Previously Published

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