Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Hit Me With Your Best Shot: Precision

Variety is the spice of life, so it’s been said. And it’s true. But when writers set out to laboriously vary word choices, the real meaning of a scene or story can be lost. Consider this from John Gardiner in The Art of Fiction: “Often the search for variety leads to another problem, the overloading of sentences and the loss of focus.”

That’s why it’s important to know exactly what you want to say, not just what sounds good, and to say it as precisely as possible. For people who recall the story of Goldilocks — a little girl looking for just the right everything — it’s important that the language of a story, especially description, not include too much detail or too little, but just enough. It also needs to be the right detail. Consider these two examples:
  • In a couple of weeks she would have another birthday, thirty, emerging from an odd number, twenty-nine, into a roundness, a fullness that seemed an unreachable, unbridgeable distance.
  • In two weeks she would be thirty, emerging into the fullness of womanhood, which seemed even now an unbridgeable distance.
To put today's musing into action, the writing tip at the top of the list is a bit more involved, since precision takes work. Take a look, and let me know how it goes.

1 comment:

Lauren said...


I have an award for you. When you have a moment, please stop by to pick it up.