Monday, March 9, 2009

The Sky Above Me...

Allen Abp148 wrote a post recently about "How much Description is too much?", where he lists three types of writing he finds excessive:

The first is obvious description. Obvious description is the type that leaves people saying “duh” and putting the book down. Things like “The sky above me”, “The ground below me”, don’t laugh, I’ve actually read these in published books.

I'm not sure I understand what the problem might be with the above phrases. Presumably, Allen is claiming that the phrase "above me" and "below me" are redundant, since the sky is always above and the ground is always below.

But can't there be value in calling the reader's attention to the fact that, well, "me" is in the picture, in relation to that sky or ground? Why not?

I mean, honestly, is there a rule that you can't remind the reader that the main character or narrator is there, in the picture? I often see sentences like, "Jane could see [or Jane saw] Dave stab the knife into John's pants and draw blood". and I wonder if "Jane could see" or "Jane saw" might better be deleted. Perhaps it's more immediate to say "Dave stabbed the knife into John's pants and drew blood". But isn't something also gained by reminding the reader that it's Jane's story in which Dave and John are fighting?

And, besides that, isn't there a difference in cadence and rhythm if you add "above me" rather than delete it? And isn't much of writing about such choices of the sound of words and lines and sentences and paragraphs, and how the words draw the reader on into your word and your characters?

This all harkens back to the editorial fad of trying to kill every last word and line that is not essential. That might be a good idea if you are sending the story by Western Union teletype... errr... sorry, no such technology anymore... typing it on a cell phone, maybe? Writing a Twitter novel?

But it's not a given for anyone else.

Write whatever works. Make it sound good, make it draw the reader in and lock them into the viewpoint character, (if any). Make them care.


apb148 said...

While I do think in many cases these are redundant, however, I placed these phrases in the blog as examples of a guideline only, and not a hard rule. With creative writing, there are very few hard rules, and even those have exceptions. The most successful writers know what the rules are, and how to break them.

I think your blog is well written, and you have presented your arguments well.

Keep up the good work


Dal Jeanis said...