Direct [not long-winded] Narrative

Hopper, Gale, Foote & Griffith on narrative:

 

“In narrating an incident the writer should begin with the circumstances in which it occurred and the events immediately preceding it. Do not begin with unnecessary explanations or remote and inconsequential events.

An indirect or long-winded approach bores the reader and destroys the impact of the story.

Furthermore, you may get lost in a maze of inconsequential details or exhaust yourself before you have narrated the climax of your story.

Suppose Susan is telling how she and Steve were nearly drowned when they rowed into the ship’s channel at Gloucester, Massachusetts, and their boat was swamped by a passing freighter.

This story should probably begin with their taking the boat out. The writer can then concentrate on how, unthinkingly, they rowed into the channel and on the ensuing events together with their emotional reactions to them. The story should not begin with an explanation of why the couple decided to vacation in Gloucester. Nor is it necessary to say that on the preceding evening a guest at their hotel suggested the excursion, or even that they were eager to get out on the water because they had been kept indoors for three days by a northeaster.”

 

Hopper, Gale, Foote, and Griffith‘s book, Essentials of English, is an excellent resource for writers of all kinds. You can find it here.

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Simple [decluttered] Writing

William Zinsser on the need for simplicity in writing:


“Clutter is the disease of American writing. We are a society strangling in unnecessary words, circular constructions, pompous frills and meaningless jargon.

Who can understand the clotted language of everyday American commerce: the memo, the corporation report, the business letter, the notice from the bank explaining its latest “simplified” statement? What member of an insurance or medical plan can decipher the brochure explaining his costs and benefits? What father or mother can put together a child’s toy from the instructions on the box? Our national tendency is to inflate and thereby sound important. The airline pilot who announces that he is presently anticipating experiencing considerable precipitation wouldn’t think of saying it may rain. The sentence is too simple—there must be something wrong with it.

But the secret of good writing is to strip every sentence to its cleanest components. Every word that serves no function, every long word that could be a short word, every adverb that carries the same meaning that’s already in the verb, every passive construction that leaves the reader unsure of who is doing what—these are the thousand and one adulterants that weaken the strength of a sentence….”

 

William Zinsser’s book, On Writing Well, is an excellent resource for writers of all kinds. You can find it here.