Saturday, November 15, 2008

Good Writing

"Good writing has an aliveness that keeps the reader reading from one paragraph to the next." – William Zinsser in On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction.
I read a story this week that began with two paragraphs of description and no action. This kind of writing lacks “aliveness.” Dialog that is expository -- that tries to teach or explain -- also slows the pace of a story. That’s not to say the reader shouldn’t learn something from the conversations between characters, but the dialog shouldn’t sound like a lecture. Another way a story loses its aliveness is when passive verbs and generic nouns pepper the prose.

Of course, the opposite of too much description or exposition is too little. In an effort to keep a story moving, there are times I don’t include enough information. I know this by the comments I receive when I send a story for critique. I struggle with knowing how much detail a story needs to keep it alive. How do I improve on this? As Mr. Zinsser says, “You learn to write by writing.”

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