Stop trying so hard.
We’ve all seen it, the overflourished paragraph. The one that is oozing with metaphors and similes. It screams sophistication, but it also screams… super boring.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m down for some poetic prose once in a while, but if every word is dipped in decadence, I’m going to assume one of two things.
- You’re an obnoxious person.
- You’re insecure about your writing.
A common mistake that new and old writers make is dressing up their writing a bit too much. Using a ten-dollar word when a ten-cent word would’ve done the same job can be a mistake… it can also sometimes be genius.
‘For example, there is a trick that nearly every writer uses, of inserting at least one long word into each story. This makes the reader think that the man is very wise and clever. So I have the machine do the same thing. There’ll be a whole stack of long words stored away just for this purpose.’
‘In the “word-memory” section,’ he said, epexegetially.
-Roald Dahl: excerpt from ‘The Great Automatic Grammatizator’
Using a ten-dollar word carefully can make for an excellent emotive moment, as shown by Roald Dahl in the above excerpt.
When I first read ‘The Great Automatic Grammatizator’, I laughed so hard I nearly cried, it was so unexpected. The rest of the words in his short story are simple, easy to understand and easy to digest. So throwing in the epexegetially example slightly, later on, provides a moment of comic relief. Using ten-dollar words less frequently actually gives your piece of work more meaning. The words you chose seem intentional instead of stuffy.
What I’m trying to get at here is that using the right vocabulary is important in every novel.
Correct vocabulary doesn’t always mean poetic prose. It can also mean simple everyday language. Using fancy pants words left, right, and centre can make reading a book cumbersome. No reader wants to sit beside a dictionary. Your book won’t be worth the effort.
If a reader has to translate your work or strain themselves mentally, most readers will throw your book aside. No matter how compelling your plot or character, language can cause a massive divide between author and reader.
Readers don’t want to read your book to find out how intellectual you are. They don’t care how many big words you know.
Often the reader will forget your name once they’ve finished your book so take the vanity writing out of it.
Write a good story that pulls the reader along on whatever adventure you decide to write about! That’s how you write a good story with engaging prose! As always, I cannot wait to see you on the bookshelf!