Tuesday, January 1, 2013

The Short of It

THE main difficulty in writing a story is to convey to the reader clearly yet tersely the natures and dispositions of one’s leading characters. Brevity, brevity—that is the cry. 

--P.G. Wodehouse 

I either write "short" because it is my choice and intention or because I haven't the ability to do otherwise. I should probably know which of those is the truth, but I don't. Wodehouse did...

"I will pass lightly over the meeting of the two lovers. I will not describe the dewy softness of their eyes, the catching of their breath, their murmured endearments. I could, mind you. It is at just such descriptions that I am particularly happy. But I have grown discouraged. My spirit is broken." 
(You should go read it.)

Occasionally, my spirit gets broken, too. At those moments, I am sometimes tempted to stick in a dewy, soft eye or two, or eight, if a spider is involved. But, mostly, I resist temptation. I ask myself: Do I want to look at an eye? Or what the eye sees? 
There is an aesthetics of concision...
Picasso made this picture of  his beloved
dachshund Lump with a single line.
Concentration in the abstract.* 
There is an aesthetics of precision.
Concentration on the exact. 
That's what I'm after, both of that.
*At its best, there is no mutilation.
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