14 January 2008

paring down

So much of short story writing is stripping down to the essentials. On my personal blog, Sex Scenes at Starbucks, I wrote a one sentence post yesterday. However, it didn't start out that way.

I'd had a fabulous day snowboarding, beyond words, really, but I somehow wanted to catch the essence of what made it so great. One of the best aspects stemmed from a minor annoyance. My boots are too loose and flexible for my skill level. That realization was like when you suddenly get the difference between telling and showing. My boots haven't changed; I have. I'm a better rider. Yea for me.

The second good part was the snow itself. Loose, powdery, and a fresh layer for every run. I wrote a rather poetic (for me) graph about the snow.

Then I sat back and looked at it. Only one line stood out:

In the moment my soul catches up to me, I realize snowboarding in deep powder feels like folding chocolate into whipped cream.

Not the greatest line ever, but it did describe what I was feeling.

Then I looked at all that stuff about my boots. It didn't really matter to anyone but me. In fact, it might actually be, gulp, boring. DELETE.

And all the other words around that one line basically repeated the sentiment in less effective ways. DELETE.

Can your six thousand word story be five thousand words? I bet it can, and it'll be leaner and more active without all that extra weight. Kill narrative. Look for conversations that don't further the plot. Describe things with the perfect word, not the perfect ten words. DELETE. And then see if you don't have a better story.

5 comments:

David E. Hughes said...

Yes! Another slasher in the making!

sex scenes at starbucks said...

You're a good influence.

Bernita said...

I usually have the opposite problem.

betsy said...

Which is why I so admire your style, Bernita.

lesleylsmith said...

I have to say, the majority of stories in our 'closed round' would benefit from some paring down.