Monday, September 8, 2008

Bullets or Flowers

If you subscribe to Writer's Digest, then I would like to direct your attention to the very first letter in this month's issue.

I could not agree more!

If you are not a subscriber, one Bill Corbett (no relation to Bill Corbett of MST3K fame, I do not think) writes in as to how more and more writing instructors these days prefer the Hemingwayesque style of short, direct sentences. He calls them "bullets." He goes on to admonish that a little "fluff" is not a bad thing.

Years ago, when I first started this journey, I began buying book after book on writing. I checked out books from libraries and subscribed to trade magazines. I eagerly devoured everything I could on writing - form, structure, style, grammar, industry - whatever its specificities, if it had anything at all to do with writing, I read it, highlighted it, and took notes.

For the largest part, they all said the same things. That is where I developed such a distaste for "Golden Rules." And most of them eschewed any real description; it called it "purple prose" and "flowery description." I was told, in no uncertain terms, to "kill all adverbs" and "delete all adjectives," and so I did.

And it was an absolute mess.

It is very true that there is a specific word for nearly everything; it is true that you can replace most adverbs and adjectives, along with the components they modify, with more concrete verbs and nouns which make them superfluous. But if that is not the way you talk, if that is not your "Voice" or style, then you are attempting a Sisyphean feat and your writing will suffer.

Further, as Mr. Corbett points out, it makes a whole lot of writing read the same.

There is a big difference between description and purple prose and sometimes, flowers will get you further than bullets.

© C Harris Lynn, 2008

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