When Brevity in Storytelling Is Bad

when brevity is bad
Photo credit: _.Yann Cœuru ._ via Visual hunt / CC BY

When I advise writers on their manuscripts—especially when I’m looking at their first pages—the most consistent feedback I have is: Cut. I constantly question: Do we need this detail? Does this information have to come right now? Can we wait on this back story? Why is this description relevant?

Also, it can sometimes be easier to cut something if you can’t see how to fix it. Just remove the offending bits, job done. But too many cuts can deaden a piece. You know how doctors used to think that bleeding you out would resolve your health problems? Sometimes cutting a piece of writing is just like that. You’re not helping, you’re weakening.

In the latest Glimmer Train bulletin, fiction writer Josh Weil discusses when brevity is not your best friend in telling a story:

We’ve all been there: a moment when something of such import happens that the space life allows for it seems too small. For me, the time my grandfather broke free of his dementia to speak last words to me was like that. The time I came home to an empty apartment and knew my marriage was over was like that….Unfortunately, life doesn’t let time expand to hold these things the way they warrant. Luckily, writing does. I call it breathing room. And I think it’s one of the most underappreciated (even at times derided) ideas a creative writer can employ.

Read the full essay.

Also in the latest Glimmer Train bulletin:

Share on:
Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

newest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments