Keep it Simple. Stick to the Story. (Flowery not required)

This post is basically a reminder to myself, if nothing else.

I often lament over sentences that I write, thinking they are too stale, too boring, too similar to what I always write. I want the adverbs to flow, the impressive vocabulary to astound, the metaphors to soar.

But so often, writing seems so ordinary.

That’s okay. Life is ordinary too! I am not a poet. I am not Henry James (thank goodness!) and I don’t live in the 17th century.

What am I? I’m a storyteller. That’s all. I tell stories. And one does not need flowery, pretentious dribble to tell great stories. Actually, in my opinion, it’s preferable not to sound like that. Simplicity is a beautiful art form of a writer.

You can write the extraordinary without being flowery and deep. You can write interesting, gripping, and deep fiction without being inaccessible. You might think I just contradicted myself, but the first ‘deep’ meant purposely vague with ridiculously opaque references. The second ‘deep’ meant writing of substance. Writing that sticks with the reader. Writing that makes the reader think.

All of that is possible and you don’t have to be William Faulkner to achieve it.

What do you need to tell a gripping story?

Great, well developed characters who change with the story. Characters who are not cardboard figures or cartoons. Characters who are well-rounded and real with solid strengths and real weaknesses.

A great plot. A gripping sequence of happenings which fit the characters and is believable to the reader. I like to keep my plots moving, without bogging them down with excessive descriptions. I like to let the story tell the story.

Sentences with are crisp and flow smoothly. Dialogue which is brisk and interesting AND realistic. Stay away from hackneyed phrases or dialogue which seems pushed or forced just to move a story in a certain direction.

Luckily, all three of these can be achieved by keeping your writing short and your vocabulary simple.

Simplicity in writing is something to be treasured as a reader. Or at least that is my experience. So that’s how I roll and how I will continue to approach my writing in the future.

2 responses to “Keep it Simple. Stick to the Story. (Flowery not required)”

  1. When I look back to my first novel I now see how often I struggled with the idea of being a story teller vs. a Henry James writer (failing at that one!). My mother was recently complaining about Henry James and the length of his descriptive paragraphs and it reminded me that while I admire brilliant words and sentences they don’t always capture my heart like a good, simple story does.

    There’s room for both in writing and in life, but it’s taken me some time to make peace with my own voice. Thanks for this. It’s a great piece for me to start the new year with!

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