“Un buen escritor expresa grandes cosas con pequeñas palabras; a la inversa del mal escritor, que dice cosas insignificantes con palabras grandiosas.” – Ernesto Sabato
I find myself struggling with trying to balance showing versus telling in keeping my writing simple and fluid, all while allowing my own style and voice to develop. I won’t be one of those writers who writes three pages to describe something that could have easily been shown in a paragraph. Number one, I don’t have the literary tool-set to do that and number two, I wouldn’t want to even if I did. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with those who can dazzle us with prose that showcases their mastery of words and ability to crank out intricate sentence structures. There is a time and place for complexity and for me personally, I don’t care to see it over an entire novel. Poetry and short stories; yes, but not for ninety thousand plus words. Often, it leaves a reader confused and doesn’t move the plot. OK, it leaves me confused, like I might leave many of you confused rambling on about finite element analysis, proof load testing, and stress failures. I don’t want to be that kind of writer.
My advice to writers as both a reader and a writer: balance. Use words that challenge, inspire thought, or paint pictures but don’t do it in a way that has the average reader wondering if he or she should have continued education beyond grad school just to understand your work. Remember that the reader is the customer. If you don’t care about that then by all means, impress yourself and a few others but don’t complain about lack of sales or interest in your work.The old adage “Keep it Simple Stupid” plays a part in writing and there is plenty of advice out there on the subject. One can still have creativity and depth in simplicity. I’m a firm believer that reading the work of authors who master this helps make me a better writer.
The translation for the above quote by Ernesto Sabato?
“A good writer expresses great thoughts with simple words, whereas the bad writer says insignificant things with grandiloquence.”
So by now you are wondering what the heck KISS, Tacos, and Beer has to do with any of this right? It’s just how my mind works.
Last month, we went on a vacation to Arizona to see my family. This included a three day side trip to Las Vegas with my entire Arizona family so that my brother could finally marry his fiancé. I hadn’t been to Vegas in years and my wife and kids had never been so we were excited about it. Las Vegas is both beautiful and exhilarating but designed for one thing: to dazzle your senses in a manner that lessens the realization of how fast money is leaving your wallet. I quickly became frustrated at how expensive meals were in the resort: one hundred plus dollars each time for a family of four.
I could write an entire short story about our experiences in Vegas but in keeping with the theme of this post, I will keep things moving and simple. Getting off the the main strip, we drove down a side road en route to the KISS Wedding Chapel. Yes, this is where my brother and now wife wanted to be married, and by a friend of mine who plays in a Vegas KISS tribute band called Sin City KISS. Along the route, I was determined to find an alternate place to eat after the wedding so my wife and kids were rattling off names of restaurants they were seeing on the way to the wedding, names that told me nothing with the exception of one. As we pulled into the chapel, I saw the huge KISS sign and it hit me, knowing immediately where we were going to eat after the wedding. Keep it simple stupid.