Beautiful Language

What’s the value of beautiful language, those poetic parts of novels or memoirs which sound musical to the ear? Is this what readers yearn for when they pick up a story?
Writing Tip for Today: I love poetry, in fact I started my writing career by publishing free verse poems. I also love the language and I’m delighted when a writer’s prose is so gorgeous I want to cry. But in my little opinion, the use of pretty can also lead to purple prose in the hands of anyone except masters. Here’s why:

  • Great descriptions, no story. If you fill your pages with beautiful prose but you fail to move a story (or HAVE a story in some cases), those words fall short. It reminds me of the fairy tale, “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” where a king was so full of himself and how wonderful his new raiment was, that he refused to acknowledge it was completely invisible. He paraded through town naked, and only one little boy called attention to the fact. Similarly we sometimes praise a story for the use of language, when there is no story.
  • Less is More. Loading every sentence with modifiers (adjectives and adverbs) bogs down your story and slows it to a crawl. As an experiment, strip a scene or chapter of all modifiers except for “the” “and” or “but.” Read it aloud and see if your story moves. Less is more.
  • One or the Other. Typically new writers are either better at action-packed scenes or else they construct description-laden passages that amount to navel-gazing. I’d put my money on the action writers. It’s sad but true: The worst writing with a great storyline is always going to win over beautiful writing with little or no story.

About Linda S. Clare

I'm an author, speaker, writing coach and mentor. I teach both fiction and nonfiction writing at Lane Community College and in the doctoral program as expert writing advisor for George Fox University. I love helping writers improve their craft and I'm both an avid reader and writer of stories about those with wounded hearts.

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