One of the things I always find amazing about musicians is that they take individual notes and make unique melodies. There are only so many notes and yet, new music is being made every day.
I guess we can say the same thing about writing right? There are only so many words — but unlike music, there are a lot of words that mean the same exact thing.
I remember in high school keeping a journal of “exotic” words. Words that when announced sounded like you were someone special. I remember thinking to myself that one day I would put all of these words in a story and readers would be so impressed by my intellect.
Fast forward a few years to my first novel critique at the SCBWI National Conference in LA. The agent who had reviewed my work said my manuscript pages were “stiff” with unnecessary and big words. I was confused. Duh. Wasn’t that the point? To fill up your novel with “impressive” words and turns of phrases?
I appreciated the comment though. The agent wrote at the top of my first page:
“Don’t let the words ruin the story. Go for the strongest and simplest word. You want your words to become invisible so that the reader can see the story unfold in his mind. Big unnecessary words cause readers to stumble and wake up from the dream.”
I still remember this advice and try to use it when I’m writing.
What about you writer friends? Do you think simple is better? Or does it depend upon the type of story you’re telling?