My natural tendency is to get to the point which may be great for technical writing, but not so much for fiction writing! Fiction involves leading the reader into the world your characters inhabit. It is a balancing act. A writer must include certain elements to create this world for the reader, all the while keeping the story rising and falling at the right times to keep the reader interested. But how prosaic should you be?
Here is a fictional example of spartan prose which contains little to hook a reader:
‘Jane liked John. They went to the bar, had a drink and went on a date next Friday. John and Jane were both happy. After dating for a year, they married and lived happily ever after.’
What’s missing? Without getting technical, I’m sure you noticed the following elements are absent:
– what the characters thought
– what the characters felt
– any mention of the senses
– how the lives of the characters changed and how they changed because of meeting.
This prose has all the entertainment value of reading a subpoena, and will not keep readers turning the pages.
Then you have the opposite end of the spectrum, where writing contains extraneous information that does not move the story along. The reader becomes lost in rambling, and wonders what the story truly is—or even if there is one! For example:
‘Jane walked down the street, her new shoes rubbing against her heels. She had tried everything to prevent blisters, even spraying her heels with hairspray, a tip she had read in a magazine some years back. Jane loved magazines, so much so that the walls of her front room were lined with bookshelves of every magazine she had ever purchased. Her mother told her she was a hoarder, but Jane disagreed. She was a collector, that’s what she was.’
What’s the problem with this fictional example?
The reader wonders ‘where is this going?’, and if that question is not answered in quick time, they are likely to give up and move onto another book.
We all have a natural tendency when we write, and once you know yours, you can focus your editing attention to ensure your writing is balanced.
So, if you have a tendency to be brief, focus on this when editing:
- have you included senses (taste, touch, smell and hearing)?
- do you explore the character’s thoughts and feelings?
And if you are more prosaic, ask yourself one question: ‘how is this relevant to showing the character’s development, setting the scene or to progressing the story?’
While these tips are not a full analysis of writing craft, they are a good start to improve your writing.
What natural tendency do you have? Let me know if you try these tips and how they work for you!