Tuesday, February 1, 2011

It Was a Dark and Lonely Night

I remember solving my Rubik's Cube for my wife the first time.  She said, "That's nice, Dear...now let me watch some television."

Well, that only encouraged me to find more difficult and convoluted puzzles.  And yet, she was hardly impressed.  What a dark and lonely night that was for me.

Was I so eager to find approval that I simply overdid it?  Did I become annoying in my attempts to impress her?  (Yes.)

Then I considered my writing to that point.  Was I overdoing it?  (Yes.)

I tormented my brain to conjure up grand imagery and the most poignant analogies.  Like a model ship builder, I painstakingly arranged the prose for maximum literary effect.  But did it work?  (No.)

Readers don't like a show off.  Overly descriptive writing can be distracting and downright annoying.  Here's a famous example of what I mean:

It was a dark and stormy night: the rain fell in torrents - except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.

Wouldn't you prefer simply, "It was a dark and stormy night"?

Stop trying to show off.  It's challenging enough to find the right words to tell your story, but finding the proper balance is key.  Too much "purple prose" is not fun to read...and your readers won't be impressed.

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