BUT WHAT DO WE LEAVE IN?
We all know what to leave out:
1.) It’s Open Season on anything ending in –ly.
2.) Clunky sentences and long paragraphs that dull the readers’ focus and wither her/his attention-span.
3.) Any word that you wouldn’t pay a quarter to keep in your manuscript.
Ernest Hemingway learned to write lean when a foreign correspondent. EVERY WORD cost his employers money.
Elmore Leonard suggests: “Leave out the boring stuff.”
In reverse logic: we leave in the riveting stuff:
1.) Primal is riveting.
THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA is riveting. Why?
Because the fish means more to the old man than just something to keep hunger at bay.
Catching the fish would say to those who jeer at him that he is not old and useless, that he is still a man.
2.) Sex is riveting.
Without it, the species would end. But we don’t live for abstractions. We live for attractions.
Flirting is only verbal fondling. The act doesn’t have to be literally on the page, blow by blow. Still, the sparks should be seen, and the heat felt.
3.) Danger is riveting.
But only if we care for the characters at risk. And the danger must flow out of the natural development of the narrative – not just be thrown in for spice out of nowhere.
4.) Empathy is magnetic.
We care for characters to whom we can relate. So we leave in those prose strokes that resonate with
the pains, the dreams, the struggles of our readers – the search for love, the endurance of loneliness, the tragedy of being misunderstood.
5.) Great dialogue sparkles.
No clichés – even for teenagers, for clichés or even modern slang has a very short shelf-life.
Think of your favorite movies.
Each one had snippets of dialogue that had you repeating them to your friends. Try to make your novel someone’s favorite in a like manner.
6.) Poetry in prose.
Ernest Hemingway said the secret to writing great novels was that they contained poetry in prose.
Make each first sentence on a page memorable by use of metaphor, dialogue, or simply tilting an image on its ear.
Each of us must do that in our way. Read a page of Hemingway or Zelazny at random to see how they did it.
“She gave him a look that should have left bruises.”
“The sea was harsher than granite.”
*) I hope this has helped in some small way. Roland
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