Go Green with Your Writing: Reduce

Apr 9, 2013 by

And you thought going green was just for saving the planet, but the three main tips can be used for lots of things, including writing! For example you can make a more coherent story by reducing words or reduce confusion by adding more. Wait… that was confusing, let me explain.

Sometimes you can bog down the story with too many words, I wrote this for an example:

The girl ran; left foot, right foot, left foot, right, one in front of the other over the dirt path, a lonely path not trekked by many.

The sun shone high and bright that day but she barely felt it under the protective branches of the trees, strong, green and towering.

Her cloak billowed behind her as she flew gracefully down the path. A bush reached out, ensnaring the corner of her cloak like someone trying to take her captive. She stopped her dance of steps abruptly to pull the thick red fabric free from it’s captor.

It might sound nice but what’s really happening? A girl’s running through a forest on a hot afternoon. But with so many words it’s hard to distinguish what’s actually happening and what of it is actually important. Unless you’re writing poetry I don’t think you need to write like that.

I however tend to go too far the other way, I tend to write too simplistically. I’ll say the characters all walked together and imagine that the one in the back has his shoulders slouched and is walking in a way that makes it obvious he doesn’t want to follow. Should I include that detail? Yes. Do I? usually not.

Or I’ll say my characters are in a park, but parks can be so different. Is it a big park or a small one? Are there picnic tables? A gazebo? A playground? A pond? If so is it a duck pond or a koi pond? What I see is a large field with park benches and a rusty swing set but my readers aren’t going to know that unless I tell them.

What you have to do is look over what you wrote and ask yourself will my readers see what I see from what I said? Now they don’t have to see every minute detail, that can get boring. Which brings us back to too many words….

Balance is the hard part and is something I can’t really say much on but I think the key is not how many details but choosing the right ones. For example don’t describe the exact size and shade of the squares on the tablecloth, but do point out that the checkered tablecloth doesn’t match the floral curtains. Don’t try to explain the exact length of someone’s hair but say whether it’s neat or a mess.

But like every rule there are exceptions; how much detail you have really depends on what you’re writing, light reads such as chick lit don’t need big descriptions but an epic might; after all would we have the pictures of elves and dwarves we do if it wasn’t for Tolkien’s wordiness?

By the way… kudos to anyone who caught the red cloak reference. 😉

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  1. I want the rest of the story!!! You can’t end it there!!! Awesome description btw.

    • hannah C brown

      LOL! Wait, you liked that part? That was supposed to be bad….

  2. hannah C brown

    Note: What may seem too wordy to some might be perfect to someone else so when it comes to description add however much that fits your writing style.

    • Good point. I thought your example was amazing. I could picture it in my head as I read it and it made me want to read more. Another consideration is the audience it’s written for. You would write much more detail in an epic that was written for an older audience than you would a young adult novella. If it fits, keep it. If it feels wordy, it probably is.

      • hannah C brown


        There is no one right way to do it, just what’s right for you and your audience.

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