Writing Secrets: Don’t be too obvious

 In Tips for Writers

The best writing allows us to see, hear, feel and smell something – but (and it’s a big but) without being too obvious. Give us just enough details, but then allow us to put them together into a coherent pattern.

Don’t take that extra step. Take us to the brink, then let go of our hands and let us take the last step by ourselves.

Show us someone’s been crying by the number of crumpled tissues lying on the bed. Show us someone’s been up all night by the full ashtray, or the empty bottle by her side.

My holiday reading included a Michael Connolly and, from him I saved two examples of this kind of writing.

“The man smiled and Bosch thought his face might crack.”

Here’s the second. Harry Bosch has just shot someone. “He felt a fine mist on his face. Bosch looked at himself in the mirror and looked away.”

Now tell me you wouldn’t have been tempted to take that extra step and tell us about the blood freckling his face. How much more powerful it is simply to have him turn away?


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