1. Mario
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    Mario New Member

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    Writing too wordy?

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Mario, Mar 28, 2012.

    Here is an except from something I am writing. I was wondering if the contents are too wordy and would deter the reader from wanting to continue with my story. If this is the case, how am I supossed to eleminate this when this type of phrasing is what I consider to be my "voice" or "style"?



    He had slept well into the afternoon before the sun grew tired of his waste. He turned away from the window and felt warmth gradually absorb into his back. Even in a weeklong heatwave, the rays were always relaxing. He drifted for a few minutes before his eyes shot open.

    ____ sat up and struggled for his cellular before pausing, thinking of how to contort the night in a way that would absolve him from the most embarrassment. After trying on a dozen or so masks, he left his face bare.

    "I was hoping to wake up to you this morning."

    He sighed and let himself fall back down to the bed, hoping for once it wouldn't catch him.
     
  2. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I don't think it's really too wordy, but, especially in the first paragraph, I think you need to use a wider variety of sentence structure. Too many of your sentences begin with, effectively, "He did this ..." "He did that ..." "He did something else ..." and so on. Don't start all your sentences with "he" or the character's name. That's a kind of repetition that gets dull quickly.
     
  3. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    It is a bit wordy, but I've seen worse. Mostly, your whimsical imagery feels forced and awkward. It may be your voice, but I think you could dial it back and still express your individuality. The sun growing tired of his waste, and him wishing to contorting the night to absolve him from the most embarrassment are just a smidge over the top, in my opinion.
     
  4. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    sorry to say, i have to agree with cog... it's bordering on purple in places...
     
  5. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I held back from calling it purple. Perhaps aa tinge of lilac. :)
     
  6. Jowettc
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    Jowettc Contributing Member

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    I sympathise. My most levelled complaint is that I am too wordy - shucks cant help it. All I can really say is that you have to be a very brutal and exacting editor of your own work or find someone else - who you respect but can hate a little - who can do it for you. Go with the learning to do it yourself though cos it will make your writing style better, I am led to believe...
     
  7. Erato
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    Erato Contributing Member

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    >I'm not sure how the sun grows tired of his waste. I mean, you're thinking of _the sun decides to punish him for his laziness and so bombards him with heat and photons_ and I'm not getting the punishment part. It's left sort of open and it seems to have little relation to the rest.
    >Warmth does not absorb into a back. A back absorbs warmth.
    >Unless it's important, do not mention the heatwave.
    >Why do his eyes shoot open? Why does he struggle for his cellular (and in America, we call that a cell phone)? How does one contort a night? (You can contort a face, but not a night.) I'm not sure _absolve_ is the best word here, probably _save_ is better.
    >No complaint on the masks. That part seems fine to me except for _bare_ which I think might be better phrased as _expressionless_.
    >Who says this snatch of dialogue? Would that be obvious? Is it coming through his cell phone? In which case you need to say that he placed a call or answered one.
     
  8. Nakhti
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    Nakhti Banned

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    I agree with Cog, and Erato also made some excellent points on specific words and images.

    My feeling when I read the except was that you're trying very hard to sound literary, but aiming a little above the level of skill you've actually attained. Some sentences just don't make sense, and some words don't mean what you intend them to mean. Even in a high literary style your writing has to be coherent, otherwise you're not communicating anything to the reader, you're just showing them a complicated configuration of words and hoping they'll be impressed.

    Concentrate on meaning. Figure out what you want to say and then say it in a straightforward but elegant way. Using 10 simple words in a sophisticated manner is infinitely better than using 20 very sophisticated words badly.
     
  9. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i couldn't have said it better... have to ditto nakhti's entire post...
     
  10. lorilee
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    lorilee Member

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    I would describe it as 'florid', not necessarily wordy. A lot of words and phrases are ones that most of us would never see in day-to-day language and writing e.g. contort, absolve. Not to my taste, but if it's to yours and your readers', I don't see why it should be a problem.
     
  11. Mario
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    Mario New Member

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    I really dont think im trying to impress anyone with my vocabulary; anyone could do that by just grabbing a thesaurus. Also, I forgot to mention this is an except, not a opening, which might explain some confusion when it comes to the context of my writing. Some words are used figuratively, as well. I didn't mean to portray the PHYSICAL sun as PHYSICALLY punishing him, the same can be said for a couple other devices ;) But, thank you all for your input! I can't seem to shake the vocab thing, I feel if i dumb down my "voice" it's no longer "me" writing. IDK! I definitely need to work on this. (Also, I had to look up purple to see its meaning) :(
     
  12. superpsycho
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    superpsycho Contributing Member

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    The question is, is there a purpose to the words being used? Are they really relevant to the story or are they there to fill space? Are your words building towards the emotional state of the character to some purpose in the story or are you using them because you think that's how a writer writes?
     
  13. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think it's fine to use complex vocabulary when writing about complex subjects, and poetic imagery when conveying something that pertains to soul and emotions, but using either to describe something otherwise fairly simple and mundane is shooting sparrows with cannons. Getting out of bed isn't Man vs. The World or the stuff of epic poetry, so just keep it simple. Hold onto your big guns for the parts that really need them.
     
  14. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'd say that the problem with your excerpt is not the vocabulary, but the structure - the vocabulary is not all that extravagant. I realize that you may also consider the structure to be your "voice" as well, but I think it's best to correctly identify the problem either way.

    It appears to me that you are, to some extent, being almost deliberately unclear. For example:

    He had slept well into the afternoon before the sun grew tired of his waste.

    "waste", when used in this structure, makes me think of something like trash or, er, biological waste--something with a physical existence. This sentence would be much clearer if it were:

    He had slept well into the afternoon before the sun grew tired of his wastefulness.
    or, even clearer:
    He had slept well into the afternoon before the sun grew tired of his laziness.

    Did you not think of those words, or does their clarity seem to you to be "dumbing down" the sentence? If so, are you able to determine why clarity seems dumb and lack of clarity seems smart? Sure, the reader has to think harder to translate an unclear sentence, but that doesn't actually mean that the sentence is _smarter_. A writer's job is to communicate, and declining to do so doesn't make the writing smarter.

    Similarly:

    warmth gradually absorb into his back

    could instead be:

    warmth gradually seep into his back

    This would, again, be clearer, not dumber.

    And I can't figure out what "contort the night" means. Do you mean "explain the night"? Would you see that clearer phrase as being dumber?

    I'm beating my point into the ground. I'll just say again, clarity in writing is not a sign of a dumb writer, it's a sign of a smart and skilled one.

    ChickenFreak
     
  15. killbill
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    killbill Contributing Member

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    Mario, I don't know if you are a native English speaker, but as a non-native speaker I can tell you that many non-native who are new to writing in English has the same problem as yours. They feel that the only way to impress the English speaking and reading world is by using 'difficult' words. Most of the time they end up using the wrong word at the wrong place, and which can sometimes sound ridiculous instead of sounding smart. My advice to those writers is not to use a word unless they are 100% sure of its correct usage.
     
  16. Nakhti
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    Nakhti Banned

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    Ditto all that. CF could almost have had my hand up his bum, seeing as he just said all my words in his sqwawky chicken sounding voice (although the voice might be a product of me having had too much caffenie this morning).

    But seriously, take that advice to heart. Clarity and dumbing down are not the same, nor is lack of clarity automatically clever.

    That chicken is seriously smart - for a puppet... :D
     
  17. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    gotta ditto nakhti's ditto!

    killbill may also have a valid point...
     
  18. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    To be honest, using difficult words to impress is not a mistake that's common only amongst non-native speakers. I've done similar things myself - my favourite seems not to be difficult words but vague, "poetic" words that then run away and become a very very long sentence, connected by loads of "and" and "as" and "for" and then a good measure of semi-colons and commas.

    But just always re-read what you've written and ask yourself, "Is the meaning clear?" And if the meaning is ambiguous, is it deliberate? Is this ambiguity even meaningful? Does there need to be this ambiguity or can you deliver the message in clearer prose?

    But don't worry, we all have to go through this stage to get better. Well done for experimenting - never stop that, even when something doesn't work. Never be so afraid of words that you stop playing around with it, and if it doesn't work, it doesn't, big deal. That's why we all have first drafts!
     
  19. Mario
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    Mario New Member

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    That's embarrassing. I was born and raised in Rhode Island and I'm a current sophomore in college -_- But that's besides the point. To be honest, I don't want my writing to be clear! (as counterproductive as that sounds) I want to convey a sense of openness, let the reader do their own interpretation of the scene and what everything "means". That's how i want my style to be developed; it's clearly in development and clearly not widely excepted! This scene DOES mean something to me, maybe that's why I'm leaving it to ambiguity. Maybe I don't even know... "Dumbing down" was also not meant to be taken literally, I don't consider my style of writing smart -_- Granted, my wording can definitely be cleaned up a bit to eliminate excess confusion. Although, some is needed! I write to frustrate you ;)
     
  20. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    But what's your definition of "means"? Do you really intend the _words_ to be unclear, or only the deeper meaning of the scene?

    For example, looking at the phrase:

    After trying on a dozen or so masks, he left his face bare.

    The _structure_ of that sentence is quite clean and clear. The translation is in recognizing and interpreting the metaphor. You could make it less clear, for example:

    After varying his aspect virtually half a score times plus two, he left his countenance as unadorned as at his nativity.

    That would be a great deal less clear. Would you therefore see it as better? Or would you agree that by muddying and cluttering the metaphor, it destroys it? I'm not asking this as a rhetorical question - I really want to know. Do you inherently value a lack of clarity, or are you instead seeking a deeper meaning and seeing a lack of clarity as a way to achieve that? If you like your own clean, clear sentence up there, can you see that sentences like that can be a tool to achieve the effect that you're after?

    ChickenFreak
     
  21. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Ditto ChickenFreak!

    Mario, if you write to frustrate, then no one will read your book... -_-;

    Learn to write clearly first, and THEN play with it all you like to muddy the waters. But if you can't write clearly, then "playing" with lack of clarity will make your writing meaningless. Words carry meaning - that is why we write - and if our readers cannot decipher the message behind it, then we have failed. You cannot hope to leave your writing "open" and still convey your own message. You can, however, imply multiple messages and in so doing, call it "open" because there're multiple ways of interpreting something - but that is different to a "lack of clarity". Do not mistake layers of meaning with the lack of meaning.
     
  22. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    well put!

    no one spends good money on a book because they want to be frustrated by a writer who doesn't care whether they get what he's saying or not...
     
  23. Mario
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    Mario New Member

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    Thanks for your rather exaggerated example, Chicken. I can assure you I'm not trying to purposefully be unclear. My goal is to give my reader room for personal interpretation as well as good idea of what the sentence is trying to convey. It seems littered in some areas such as "...contort the night in a way that would absolve him from the most embarrassment". This is a bit over the top, I agree. But again, I'm not trying to be purposefully confusing or use superior wording just to illustrate my writing as superior. I'm JUST TRYING to find that balance and apply it where it is necessary.
    To answer your question, I am trying to utilize this "open" wording as a method to give the reader an interpenetration of a deeper meaning that plain, "closed" words cannot offer. (Maybe id best be suited to writing lyrics...) "A dozen or so masks" was meant to portray the different persona's we all use in varies situations, and in leaving his face "bare" he dropped this process of trying to find the right words to say and told her how he actually felt. I'm sure I did not need to explain this to you, though. Yet, this method is a lot easier then saying that literally, and, in my opinion, a lot more fun!
    I guess what I need to work on is when I implement this style and when it is just plain unnecessary!
     
  24. jg22
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    jg22 Member

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    Hello Mario,

    Shouldn't the flexibility of interpretation come through the meaning of the whole sentence, rather than the meaning of the individual words that compose the sentence? The words in a sentence don't need to be complex or obscure in meaning; they can be very simple, but the idea that the words all joined together convey can be very complex and open to interpretation. For example, with the use of symbol, motif or metaphor.
    It is clumsy, though, for if a sentence has five obscure words, and each of those words has a large number of interpretations, then any deep meaning you're trying to convey will be lost amongst the jumble of word-smithery. You can still give deep meaning to your writing using (relatively) simple words; through symbolism, metaphor, simile, dialogue, actions- and most of all: the theme of the story. Subtlety is important here; the deeper meaning should always be implied, not explicit, otherwise the writing will just come across as pretentious and it becomes a chore to read.
     

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