I know someone who talks about someone else a lot. Which probably means that the person talked about matters, at least to the speaker. The relationship might be good (in this case it’s not), bad (um, not entirely), but one thing it’s surely not, is indifferent. I’ll come back to this situation later.
The concept applies to writing too. When you describe something in your writing, a character, event, or action, you want your words to be brief and powerful. But sometimes you also want the reader to pay attention to something, even if it seems innocuous at the time. If you want a fact, description, or character to stay in the reader’s mind, for them to subconsciously mull the information’s importance, you need to use more words.*
But what if you don’t have much else to say? For example, you want the fact that there’s a bird on the rafters to be noticed, and so remembered, but there isn’t really much more that needs to be said? There’s not an awful lot going on in the rafters otherwise.
Let’s use an example. Here’s a nice, mood-building, efficient sentence, that includes my Significant Bird:
“The room was dark, menacing, from the broken frame of the door, like fractured wooden teeth, to the bird that slipped deeper into the shadows.”
Are you going to remember that bird 200 pages later, when it all comes to a head? I kind of doubt it. You’ll remember maybe for the next page. Maybe two.
For a long time, I clung to the rule that Strunk and White laid down. The fewer the words the better. Be efficient. Cut. But eventually, my brain clued in. Sometimes rules are there to be broken. If you have a good reason for doing it.
So even if you don’t have anything additional to say, some eloquent words that add to description, or mood, or insight, you may still want to stick those extra words in anyway. Because if something needs to register with the reader, a single word or sentence might not do the trick. The extra words DO have purpose, even if it’s not immediately obvious to the reader.
“I looked up at the rafters and saw a grey-feathered bird with headstone eyes. A sculpted figure that looked like it knew every doubt in my mind. Knew and laughed. I swallowed and looked away. It was just a bird.”
Will you remember this paragraph 200 pages later? I think there’s a better chance, simply by the volume of words I threw at it.
I’m not sure I’ve ever heard anyone argue with Strunk and White on this particular point, and I may be struck with lightning for even putting it out into the web, but I think it’s true. It’s certainly not the rule (brevity really IS the soul of wit), but there might be the occasional exception.
Now about my friend’s friend…
Mmm. Sorry, I’ve forgotten what I was talking about.
I clearly didn’t use enough words…
* If I was succinct (he he), my whole post would be: “More words = More memorable.” But then who would remember? Hee hee.
The image this time is also taken from the large Devils and Angels War piece I mentioned in the last post, a different corner. Again, Prismacolor done dark. I feel slightly guilty for not actually doing any new art for a month or two, but life has been hectic, and the manuscript edit is getting close to finished. A couple of weeks away, would be my guess, and I’m finding a final wind upon me, a gust of energy to sprint to the finish. It just doesn’t leave much time for other things. Like art. I’m hoping to do a bit more once the editing is finished, maybe pre-paint some blog icons for later use. We’ll see. It’s nice to dream…