Post by Kerrie Flanagan
A few weeks back, during a NCW workshop called, Art Inspired Writing, the other participants and I had a chance to talk with artist Jim Fronapfel about his artwork that was hanging up in the NCW Studio. I was fascinated by the correlations between creating a painting and writing a story.
As you can see, there is no detailed background, not many colors, some of the lines and edges are blurred, yet it is a stunning piece of artwork. Our eyes are drawn to this mother and daughter. We are intrigued by their posture and we wonder what they are looking at. More detail would have been distracting.
The same thing can happen in our writing. Too often we think that the more detail we add, the more clear our writing will be to the reader. Not true. Sometimes too much detail can cloud what we are trying to convey and it can slow down the pace of our story.
Josh extended his arm in front of him and reached for the door handle. He grabbed the cold, brass-colored knob and quickly turned it to the right. He pulled the door open and crossed the threshold. Anger raged inside him and he was going to let them know just how much. He grabbed the knob again and pulled hard on it, causing the door to slam as he walked away.
Instead, how about: Josh stormed out, slamming the door behind him.
I know this is an exaggerated example, but the point is, as writers we do this all the time. We go overboard providing too much back story or or too much description of the setting or spend too much time telling the reader what our character looks like. We basically bog the reader down with extraneous details that do nothing to move our story along.
I know it isn't always easy, but we need to tighten our writing and take Jim's lead who shows us that less can be so much more.