Are you scared? Well, good, because you shouldn’t be. I want to talk about economy. Specificallly, economy of words.
I first learned this concept in my poetry writing workshops I took in grad school. Until this point I’d never really seriously tried my hand at poetry. Fiction was my forte. Always has and probably always will be. But I learned something about myself in the process of this all: I am a pretty decent poet too. I love the challenge of a poem. Packing so much into so little space. I very rarely write poems longer than a page. I live for the economy of it all.
The challenge with economy is to pack that whallop of a blow into each and every word. In fiction, we tend to have more room to play with this and be freer in our expenditures. But that doesn’t necessarily mean we should. Economy of words can still have a huge impact on the pacing and emotion of a scene or the entire work.
One of those WiPs in the progress bars over there to the right is a chapbook collection of haiku and tanka. They’re two of the shortest forms I’ve ever come across in poetry. The haiku we’re all familiar with. 3 lines, 5-7-5 syllables each for a total of 17 syllables. The tanka is its Japanese cousin. Three lines of 5-7-5 followed by two 7-syllable lines.
The challenge is in the restriction, but you are so much freer to explore double meanings and even triple meanings because you have to search so deep for the perfect words.
It can be the same in our fiction. Think of a scene where maybe a character is feeling a bit ostracized. She goes in her room and closes the door.
She shut the door quietly. In ten steps she reached the foot of her bed. The sunlight filtered in through the drawn curtains as she sank to the floor and drew her knees to her chest.
She reached her bed. At its foot, she crumpled to the floor in slow-motion with eyes closed.
I don’t know about you, but I like the second option better. It’s word choice and also a bit of tone and such. But it’s really economy of words. With the second option, you really have to work to get some of the same impact into fewer words and even sentences.
And so ends our post today. Q4U: Which option do you prefer? Do you struggle with economy of words? Did you stop reading after the post title? Other thoughts on the subject?
FYI: If I disappear suddenly from the blog world, don’t worry about it. Everything’s fine. Just giving you fair warning that there could come a time when all you hear from me are crickets chirping. It will be short-lived and it’s nothing dire.