The Show for Wordiness
The Show for Wordiness
I’m allowing myself to be drawn into the debate for wordiness. In ‘showing’ my support, I may be ‘telling’, but I will face the fallout without despair. I shall sail the turbulent sea that sprays a salty mist upon the writer, frozen with fear, for this is the world of wordiness and a lack of punctuation. It has been decreed.
Comma be gone, you vile, wretched, and utterly pointless squiggle of literary history. The modern world has no more use for your services. However, in this corner of the Internet, the comma, and other slighted punctuation, is being preserved, perhaps even revered. I believe in the rhythm that is imparted by the correct use of grammar and punctuation. It allows an author to write — and be read — correctly, unlike “Uncle Jack” who did unfathomable things with his horse. If you are unfamiliar with the phrase, simply type in the “Uncle Jack off his horse” into your favourite search engine. When you are finished giggling … please, do return.
Jokes aside, I am seeing new trends in the making, and I am afraid that it will be the end of writing as we know it. I am obviously still jesting, but I’m trying to be wordy … deliberately, as is my fashion. It’s fun to sprinkle in a little humour amongst the fodder that is the Internet. After all, what is the summary of a piece of writing other than a selection of words gleaned from the dictionary?
Now, I am not a professor, and I do not hold a degree in English — British or otherwise — and to be quite honest, English is not my mother tongue. Some may argue that I am not even a particularly accomplished author. None of this matters really, and for one simple reason: this is my voice.
I would like to stand up and be counted as someone who is against the brow-bashing of authors accused of using too many words. Why are we now prescribing what people should write, and mocking them when they don’t? Do we really want every new book to be an exceedingly dull clone of concise order? Oooh, don’t use he said, she said.
“The heavens will come crashing down,” he proffered, quaking with a show of fear.
“Readers will be bored stiff,” she exclaimed, angrily and without remorse, in a telling manner.
“Really,” I replied, taunting the masses, with a smirk and a delightful, yet required comma. “I have seen no proof of that, Sir!”
The reality is that dreadful writing remains disagreeable, no matter how concise, wordy, or passive it is. Even if you employ the ‘show’ methodology, you are still ‘showing’ the reader a lacklustre event. With this in mind, should we not be more concerned with the story rather than following fashionable trends? Why is the modern author so concerned with ‘showing’ his story? Have readers become so lazy that they must be spoon-fed every last morsel of detail? Are we to presume that our readers are feeble minded, and that they cannot think for themselves? In my experience, I have found my own readers to be perceptive, discriminating, and a pleasure to write for.
Instead, concern yourself with weaving a rich tapestry, filled with hems, seams, and wrinkles in the silky fabric that entices the reader’s senses. Stop worrying about how many colourful adjectives you engage, and expand your vocabulary beyond using bland words such as ‘beautiful’, txting language, and the current ‘ghetto chic’.
It is far more important to leave something to the imagination than to concisely, yet repetitively ‘show’ the reader mind-numbing information. As authors, we can presume a lot when we write. The sky will be blue no matter which part of the planet we are on. If it isn’t, then tell ‘how’ it is different from what we can expect. Don’t tell us about the pollution, a volcano, or acts of nature. Only ‘show’ us how it is differs from the ordinary if it contrasts with the customary.
I believe that these current trends have come about through misunderstanding and the fear of literary rejection. If you have not broken any rules of grammar, your punctuation is as it should be, and your story is ‘told’ in an enticing manner, then you have succeeded — by not falling into sheep mentality. Baa-aaa!
So what should you cut then? Lop off anything that you can replace with a shorter narrative, word, or phrase. Let’s take an exaggerated description of a car as an example.
The shiny, metallic red, sleek, low-slung sports car raced into view, mounted the pavement, and the pedestrians began screaming and running in every direction, fearing for their mortal lives.
That is quite a graphic line, and it lets you know what has happened in graphic detail. If you analyse the line, you realise that most of it is redundant. Much of what has been ‘shown’ is common sense or knowledge. There is no need to tell or show us what we already know through participating in this thing we call ‘life’. We want to read about things we have not yet experienced.
Most people think of cars as being shiny. How many people immediately think of a car as devoid of a gleam unless it is old and battered? So it follows that we can assume it is all sparkly and a pleasure to behold. If it isn’t, then let us know. Most cars are made of metal so unless it is made of fibreglass or carbon fibre, there is no need to inform the reader of its metallic state. Furthermore, a sports car by definition is sleek and low slung. How many sports cars have you seen that are tall, boxy, and ungainly?
Now let’s tackle those screaming pedestrians shall we? It goes without saying that they are going to scream and run around like recently beheaded chickens. This is the norm, and as such, it serves no purpose in telling us the obvious. Only describe or mention what adds value to the scene. If the car in the above example is the subject of importance, then by all means, describe it in depth. The version below is more succinct, but without losing any of the impact.
The crimson sports car raced into view and mounted the pavement, scattering bewildered pedestrians.
The most important question that any author must ask him- or herself is this: is it more important to be ‘kewl’, or to be correct? Sadly, there is often a vast chasm between the two. With this out of the way, write accordingly and seek your preferred audience. Describe what pertains to the story, and leave the rest to the imagination of the reader.
I say, “Ignore the fools that dictate, cut the crap, and write something compelling. Follow the rules of grammar, mind your punctuation, and apply it all correctly in the most colourful of ways. This, after all, is what writing is about ….