1. marcuslam
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    marcuslam Senior Member

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    "Too" to the point

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by marcuslam, Jul 15, 2012.

    Good writers should avoid fluff in their writing. For example, nobody wants to read:

    Dominic nodded vigorously as he humbly accepted the most gracious gift from the kind and wonderful Jennifer.

    Yet, if we take things to the other extreme.

    Jennifer offered a gift. Dominic nodded. He accepted.

    I often find that when I try and get to the point, the sentences become too short and the pacing feels awkward. In the end, I stretch out the sentences so they become more natural. In real life, if someone spoke only a few words at a time, I guess most people would be thrown off by that. I just wanted to know if anyone else has experienced issues of this sort. Perhaps I'm just thinking too hard into this. Thanks :).
     
  2. Youniquee
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    Youniquee (◡‿◡✿) Contributor

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    I suffer from 'telling' too much (Which is getting straight to the point) rather than showing. Sometimes, describe the emotion on their face, how they felt or what they were thinking as they received the gift.

    'Dominic nodded, stretching his arms out as he accepted the gift. He thanked her with a bright smile on his face. People weren't wrong when they said Jennifer was kind and wonderful.'

    Horrible example, I know. But if you want to have a good reason for not getting straight to the point, describe things that add to the character or help us visualise the scenes.
     
  3. simina
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    simina Senior Member

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    This reminded me of a book I skimmed through at an old bookshop - Susan Sontag's Volcano Lover. I didn't read it properly because I ended up buying something else, but the prologue was written in the short, blunt style you described. Here's a little from the beginning (courtesy of amazon):

    "It is the entrance to a flea market. No charge. Admittance free. Sloppy crowds. Vulpine, larking. Why enter? What do you expect to see? I’m seeing. I’m checking on what’s in the world. What’s left. What’s discarded. What’s no longer cherished. What had to be sacrificed. What someone thought might interest someone else. But it’s rubbish. If there, here, it’s already been sifted through. But there may be something more valuable, there. Not valuable, exactly. But something I would want. Want to rescue. Something that speaks to me. To my longings. Speaks to, speaks of. Ah . . ."


    I think this is effective. I think you can write whatever sentences you want so long as you can make them make sense. ;)
     
  4. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Be concise, not terse.
     
  5. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Everybody is forgetting context! Neither of marcuslam's two examples applies in every case. In some situations, something more like the first would be preferable, and in others, something more like the second. What kind of story is it? What kind of scene? Sometimes a style like Virginia Woolf's is appropriate, and sometimes Raymond Chandler's style would fit better.

    There is no one best style that fits every situation. Remember that context is important.
     
  6. Thumpalumpacus
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    Thumpalumpacus Contributing Member

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    I prefer simpler writing. The trick is to find the right point where you're cutting out most of the fat, and not cutting too close to the bone.
     
  7. Cassiopeia Phoenix
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    Cassiopeia Phoenix Contributing Member

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    I think that this is definitely my problem. I don't like to spend too much time describing and flowering. I like to get straight to the point, but then, when I compare my writing to other people, I feel a bad amateur. Amateur I already am.
     
  8. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    the idea is to have the scene convey a message to the reader , and create a mood- taking the above example that Dominic is taking a gift from Jennifer
    you could word it -
    Warily, Dominic took the present, noting that Jennifer's now absent hands wrung. A bribe, he scoffed. If she thinks this
    is going to make up for... his thought trailed off and he couldn't help shaking the package with interest.
     
  9. bsbvermont
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    bsbvermont Active Member

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    I wrestle with this exact topic when I am introducing background information about a character. I believe my writing is fairly concise, but then feel it is too academic when I compare it with other writing. Does anyone have a litmus test they use for this?
     
  10. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I believe in including every necessary word, and not one word more. "Necessary" is context-dependent, of course, but removing redundancy* is not.





    *Redundancy is distinct from repetition for emphasis, but the distinction can be fine, and even subjective at times.
     
  11. marcuslam
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    marcuslam Senior Member

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    Thanks for the reply, everyone. Lots of great points being raised so far. The author who makes me think of this most is Theresa Monsour. Her books are straight to be point, but often so much so that her words can be jarring, which of course you'd rather avoid.
     
  12. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'd suggest that rather than either including or cutting a bunch of adjectives, you go deeper into the thoughts and feelings of the moment. For example:

    Dominc blinked, and barely managed to keep his mouth from falling open. She got him a gift. Not just a gift, but the first gift in the relationship. Before he'd gotten her flowers, or chocolates, or so much as a "hey, let me take care of that for you" cup of coffee, here _she_ was trying to woo _him_.

    Wow. Just wow. He'd managed to keep from gaping, but he couldn't suppress his grin. His mind was still frantically searching for the right words, friendly but cool, when his mouth--unauthorized--blurted, "Hey, thanks!"
     
  13. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Hehe this made me chuckle :) it's true though.

    I think it depends on the context of what you're writing. Sure, if Dominic, in your example, is feeling really detached - he's just been dumped by Jennifer and she suddenly shows up with a gift, then your very short and snappy way of writing might actually be perfect. It shows his detachment, numbness, whatnots.

    But if it's a romantic dinner - then you're gonna want more emotion, description, body language and such.

    A part of it is also style. I used to love Henning Mankell's style - which is very often is exactly like that second example. It often allows the reader to fill in the gaps and could actually be quite powerful if done right. But perhaps over the years I changed because nowadays I enjoy his style less - it could come across as very boring and dry.

    I don't really worry about this. I just write according to the pace and atmosphere of the scene.
     
  14. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    Piers Paul Reed started one of his books with a description of a brutal murder written in pretty much that style, and the effect was incredibly powerful. But he (rightly, in my opinion) didn't keep it up for the whole book. The trick is to be aware of the effect of the way something is written and to decide whether that's the effect you want. You can't be a good writer without being a good reader.
     

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