Brightness in brevity

…why “brightness”? I don’t even like light. I’m more of a nite owl, myself. But anyway.

As somebody who often comes across ludicrously thick and voluminous volumes of words upon words in their quest for decent and memorable literature, I’ve come to develop a certain opinion that you might have figure out by unscrambling the rather lacklustre metaphor on the post’s title. Namely, that a book doesn’t have to be very long to be very good.

Now, I’ve found that the reason behind a lot of these works of fiction being so useful as doorstoppers is mostly because of ramblings upon ramblings having to do with description. Obviously, if a work of fiction contains large amounts of descriptions, it’s fairly safe to assume they are necessary and vital to the integrity of whatever story they’re trying to tell, but it’s also fair to assume that the reader doesn’t want the story itself to take a backseat to said ramblings.

Some writers don’t get this.

Again, for anybody who feels comfortable if they have things spelt out for them: A book can be very long and be very good, but there is a fine balance between telling details and specifications which help breathe more life into a story and succumbing into the need to tell absolutely everything you know in a wall of text which more often than not brings the appealing aspects of the story to a screeching halt. This demonic infodump can come in many forms, but the worst kind is that which bears minimal relation to whatever aspects of the storyline have been managing to keep the reader’s attention up until then.

In other words: If you capture my interest with a quarrel between segments of a fantastic government or its people that involves stakes that would send the teeth everyone involved chattering away but then shove that aside to tell me every specification and detail regarding the history of this political system, even and especially the ones that have no relation whatsoever with the main conflict (or, for that matter, that would have been easier and more interesting to expose via showing what their repercussions are on the ongoing action), you’re going to put me to sleep, and in the worst case scenario, I’m going to put your book down, never to finish it.

And think: What was the last book you read that you could literally not put down, because each (chapter) break you got from the action left things in such a state that you could not walk away with your peace of mind if you did not know what happened next? Somehow, I don’t think a chapter titled “On the history of the Uxariean congress for the last five hundred years” would have me saying “Oh, wow, I can’t wait to read that and see what happens!” When the continued reading of something you picked up of your own free will stops being interesting and starts feeling like a chore, that’s when you know you ought to either figure out what parts to skip or stop reading it altogether.

It’s times like this when you realise– if all of these unnecessary, boring parts were taken, out, the book would be a lot shorter, but still, it would be an improvement, wouldn’t it? After all, a book doesn’t have to be very long to be good…

If you’re a writer, honestly, what’s the last time that thought crossed your mind? Seeing your wold-acclaimed Magnum Opus as a leather-bound volume with covers twenty centimetres apart? Why is it that, in all your years of readerhood, you have never come across a volume that fits the description your theoretical masterpiece would accomplish?

Because that book does not exist.

Humans, unfortunate as they may be, have something called an attention span, and I have never heard of one born with sufficient attention to read through several thousands pages of fiction without their interest waning, or at the very least stopping to read something shorter in the meantime. People who read fiction of their own accord crave stories– stories that are fresh, interesting, new, and many. Sometimes, stretching out a story can be fatal to the reader’s interest.

If you have a lot to say, then say it, but make sure that when you’re done, you’ve created something that you need to say– not that you want to say.

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About ikerrivercast

Iker Rivercast is a natural born loner with a knack for writing and programming. When he's not sleeping or otherwise putting off being productive, you'll likely find him trying something new with his written work. View all posts by ikerrivercast

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