Vice President Author Services, John F. Harnish, January 12, 2011
There were lines and longer lines of descriptive words, wonderful words, going on and on describing and diligently depicting in seemingly endless details each and every detailed word, explained nuances portraying the sensation stage where the lead characters in the novel are exchanging dialogue. Now those few essential words of dynamic dialogue are necessary to carrying the plot onward, but the eyewash of words overwhelm the mind with lingering images that usurp who is saying what about whom to who. The above is an example of an author grossly overwriting. The artistic passion for setting the scene messes with the spoken words at a critical part in the chapter.
It’s like watching a movie and the loud volume of the background music drowns out what’s being said by the leading stars—or the sound effects creating realism blasted out in surround-sound for the Hollywood magic on the screen is pumped up to such a high volume that causes the carefully scripted voices to be unheard by the audience. What did she say to him???
With a movie or a TV series the poorly done audio mixing could be blamed for the vast imbalance of the sound track, with many viewers left wondering what had been said that couldn’t be clearly heard. In the plot of the novel the artistic overwriting provides a clear and present risk of mangling the message of what’s being said.
Indeed it’s vital to keep a balance whenever you’re painting a word picture of the surroundings—but actually the creative challenge is to make a masterful frame that’s supportive of dialogue driving the plotline. You know the expression, the devil is in the details—too much detail devils the reader’s mind by providing the electrons of the brain with an overload. Fuses are blown, causing the twists and turns of the plot to be blown away. However, there’s a need for details to establish the creditability of surroundings and character development while massaging the plot along the way.
One way details are overdone is when the writer states the obvious, The murder happened on a dark stormy wet night that left the deceased victim dead. Most nights are dark, and stormy wet is an either or—both are a bit much, likewise the gloom of night. The murdered character is the victim, is deceased, and thusly is dead—using all three is overkill. With regards to, The murder happened, get real, parties happen, parades happen, weddings happen, bar fights happen, but murders are committed—in cold blood and in the heat of passion. Wordsmithing skills bang out the words to best fit the writing, and storytelling talents curtails the bedeviled details.
Once upon a time, Marshall McLuhan, a famous media guru of sorts, popularized the expression decades ago in the ‘60s, "the medium is the message"; and now, the media massaged message is medium-rare—done in by the ways of art, ah, artistic expression, the message is getting messed with and manipulated away. Sliced and diced into message cubes of political correction, wrapped in social awareness, and spoken in the silent language of the global village sameness—giving passing lip service to thinking outside the box. But the boxy device held in hand has become the focus point of a string of starkly abbreviated alphanumeric communications fleetingly exchanged in passing—r u cing it 2???
Text becomes symbolic words, the messengers are the medium, and messages have become the media—blogs are the quagmire of lost details, out of balance in favor of a quick and easy read. It’s only a matter of time before a complete novel is written in the cryptic alphanumeric code of word-speak that’s devoid of details. Balance is omnipotent!!!