The Absence of Writing

Dennis Quaid said, “Good film is the absence of acting.” What a great point. If you notice the acting, you’re removed from the depth ofbook (2) the film itself. Actors need to be natural and to fit their roles, not to deliver a series of choreographed lines and moves that distract you from the story.

That got me thinking that the same can be said for books: A good novel is the absence of writing. If the writing is so flowery, so filled with adjectives, or so contrived, it pulls the reader out of the story. Take this passage, for example:

Amy wandered aimlessly, her blue-black hair shining in the hot, bright sun. As her flowing red dress blew in the warm summer breeze, her freckled face reddened with the frightening realization that she may never find her beloved childhood friend in the thick, dense crowds of the noisy city.


I don’t know about you, but I got lost in all those descriptives. Because of that, there is no momentum leading to the nerve-wracking point of the paragraph – and by the time I got there, I didn’t care. The “writing” in this passage is glaring, the message is not. The writing overshadowed the message with all of its heavy adjectives; the passage is weighty with unnecessary verbiage.

I compare adjectives to accessories in a room: if you over-accessorize the room, you have nothing more than clutter, no matter how expensive those accessories might be. Their individual beauty is lost; only a general impression of messiness remains. When I edit manuscripts, I look for “over-accessorized” passages and suggest cleaner, more succinct ways of getting the author’s thoughts across.

Don’t let readers walk away with an impression of messy, cluttered pages. Make every sentence count, and keep those sentences lean and mean. Your story will shine.

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