Sunday, June 7, 2015

Writing More With Less

by Rich

I recently had a discussion with a writing colleague in the midst of a dilemma. He had agreed to review another author's noir-based crime thriller because of his interest in the genre. However, when he got to reading the material, nothing crime or thriller-ish occurred until 70 or so pages into the book. There was nary a light push between characters.

This perplexed my writing colleague, because he was unsure how to review the book. When he spoke to his writer friend about this, the author in question responded that he wanted to examine sibling issues more than tell a crime story. My colleague was okay with it but he didn't understand why his author friend used so much narrative to describe the fractions between the siblings. In other words, he could've told the same story with much less detail and gotten more impact out of it.

I am a less is more writer. Where other authors spin luscious and detailed narratives to draw readers into their universes, I use dialogue to weave my tales You could say I'm from the Joss Whedon/Aaron Sorkin family of writers -- get it done and move it along. Or you could say I'm a bit anachronistic in my style, hearkening back to a time of Doc Savage and other dime novels which moved at a frenetic pace.

It's probably a bit of both, as well as my experience in short-form Improv. We had two to three minutes to get through a scene during our improvisation shows, which meant getting the audience's attention within 30 seconds or so. If we didn't get the set up of character, relationship, and location in time, we'd lose the audience. This is the same way I feel when writing a story. I lose the readers if I don't hook them in the first few pages.

Mind you, this style of writing isn't for everyone. Nevertheless, if you promise someone a crime thriller, you darn well better have someone nearing death or in serious peril. And if it's a romantic comedy the main character needs to be in the midst of some romantic devastation. There shouldn't be two chapters of flowery narrative on the history of the town they were born in.

Yes, the less is more movement in writing could be deemed another nail in the coffin which is our short attention span as readers. However, I tend to think of it as getting to the root of a tale for the readers to enjoy. And I don't think we disagree on that.

Are you a less is more reader or writer?

1 comment:

Patricia Stoltey said...

Hi Rich. I'm a less is more writer, but when I read, I set aside all my expectations and go with the writer's intention. The catch? The author needs to grab me in the first twenty pages. That doesn't necessarily mean fast-paced action, however. It might just be that beautiful language that pulls me in.

I read almost all genres and a lot of nonfiction as well, so that might tell you something.

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