Simple and concrete is the goal. This is where good writing lives. Layered and abstract is what most beginning writers produce. Layered and abstract is a pothole many experienced writers fall into. We think this is what will wow the reader. What we fail to realize is that layered and abstract will get in the reader’s way. It will veil the meaning. It will wake the reader from their dream.
Here are a couple of examples from my own writing. The first example in each pair is layered and abstract. The second example is simple and concrete:
“Yes,” I said, “I suppose I am hungry.”
“Yes,” I said, “I am hungry.”
“I thought about how I’d like to talk to this Maker. How I’d like to get some answers about all of this.”
“I’d like to talk to this maker, I thought. I’d like to get some answers.”
The difference is striking. Notice how the language that has been removed is meaningless and useless? It is obvious when you see it. With the first examples I thought I was adding meaning, being introspective and sensitive – I thought I was adding character depth. I wasn’t. I was infusing clutter into a perfectly straight-forward statement.
This difference, if carefully understood and then detected and ruthlessly uprooted from your writing, will leap your work forward toward being quality prose.
*Thank you, Ben H. Winters for phrasing the differences like this during one of our conversations.