Anyone who has ever read a writing craft book such as Stephen King’s On Writing or read a writing-related quote by Ernest Hemmingway can tell you that both of these big-name authors publicly shame the use of massive, gigantic, mountainous, elephantine, Brobdingnagian words to describe pretty much anything. Tossing in these large words often comes off as cumbersome to read, for me, at least. The general idea is to write simply. It’s about word economy. Saying as much as you can in as few words as you can.
Now, I’m certain this is somewhat affected by genre. In epic fantasies you’re more likely to find long paragraphs with sweeping descriptions of every detail, and that has become part of the genre’s brand. People go into it expecting to read that. However, if you go into, say, a YA novel, you’re more likely to find the epic descriptions dialed back and the focus transitioned to the internalization and dialogue of the main character.
I believe the best book I’ve written so far is my YA novella (short novel? Another post about that coming soon) His Only Star. The general conclusion of the reviews seems to be that it is a simple story, in that it is written in simple language. I didn’t go above and beyond with huge descriptions. I wrote what happened, and that was it. I told the story and let the characters say what they wanted to say. What came out was a simple story about complex emotions. I didn’t try and dazzle the readers with 57-letter-long words about how he felt happy. Oliver–the protagonist–felt happy, so that’s what I showed. A smile and a thought or two. He was angry, so he clenched his hands into fists and threw a punch.
In fact, I’ve been told by others that my writing is “to the point.” It is what it is. I have the objective to tell a story, and that’s exactly what I try to do. I’m here to provide a service. To entertain you by telling a good story. I’m not trying to dazzle you with my vocabulary. Yes, it’s important to choose the right words. Writing is an art form. To choose words that flow and roll is desirable, but, if taken to an extreme, can take away from the story. And that’s the important thing: To tell the story.
And that’s really all there is to it. Tell the story that has to be told. Leave the fancy words to those who write the thesaurus.
“Thin description leaves the reader feeling bewildered and nearsighted. Over description buries him or her in details and images. The trick is to find a happy medium. It’s also important to know what to describe and what can be left alone while you get on with your main job, which is telling a story.” ― Stephen King, On Writing