I had a wonderful time at the Backspace Conference, and learned tons, which I’ll be sharing bit by bit as time unfolds. I also met a bunch of excellent writers who I was fortunate to spend time with.

And there were so many important take-aways–especially having to do with craft. I realized what I thought was “beautiful writing” could be better described as overwrought narrative.

Because most people think beautiful writing means dishing out fancy words. But those frilly words don’t have impact if they don’t carry weight for the character or the plot. For example:

She unwound her curly red hair, which cascaded down her back like a flowing waterfall.

Gag, right? And it reveals nothing about who “she” is or why we should care about what her hair is doing. A name perhaps? Some kind of conflict? Maybe get rid of some of those cliche comparisons?

In the cafeteria, Shiela watched Matt flirt with Betty, a pixie blonde with a cute giggle. Maybe she could get in on this action, too. She walked past their table, and unwound her cascading curls for all to see.

A bit better, but we still don’t know how why Shiela cares about Matt flirting with Betty. And that was a bit long-winded for me. Because here’s the dirty little secret about beautiful writing–it has to be concise.

Matt flirted with Betty. Again. With the same smile he gave Shiela on Valentine’s Day. So Sheila pulled down her hair and smacked him in the face with it.

I’m struggling a bit with the “smacked him in the face” part, since hair doesn’t really do that. One more try.

Shiela rubbed her hair in Matt’s face. “No personality?” she yelled. “I’ll show you no personality!”

The last one covers a lot more information with much less words. We now know what Matt thinks about Shiela–and why that matters to her. And why Matt’s flirting hurts her so much. Betty is everything Shiela isn’t. And it pisses Shiela off.

I’ll admit the last one is pretty minimalistic, and could probably be expanded upon. But if we get stuck in pretty adjectives and adverbs, the narrative will take a gigantic halt where it doesn’t need to. Because beautiful writing needs to have proper impact. 

What about you? Are there examples of beautiful writing you’d like to share?

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