Embrace simplicity, engage readers
It’s so easy to get carried away with the excitement of writing a story, particularly if it’s a new idea, so exciting that ensuring it’s engaging and understandable for readers is forgotten.
We all appreciate the importance of a compelling hook – the first few scenes of your story grabbing the reader’s interest and holding them under your spell. However, without a strong story and plot, your reader will have nothing else to enthral them beyond that initial opening.
Often, in a rush to get every thought onto the page, prose becomes difficult to understand and hard to read. Without a good edit, readers may close the story prematurely.
As many of us are brought up on the classic works by Shakespeare, Jane Austen, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, the Brontë sisters and more, this can lead to the false belief that elaborate and elongated prose is desirable.
Times have changed and, not only can comparing your work with renowned authors lead to sleepless nights and disjointed manuscripts, it can result in words that are unlikely to be compelling for today’s audience.
Although there is still a market for elaborate, literary prose – if that’s your audience, go for it – the readership is dwindling. If you want to write a story that is going to appeal to a wider audience, it’s wise to consider how your style could work for more readers.
It’s time to simplify
Flouncy writing packed with adjectives, lengthy descriptive sentences, and wordy chapters are a throwback to our school years. Creative writing and comprehension classes taught us to use a plethora of unnecessary words.
Overcomplicated paragraphs, dialogue that has no direction and overindulging your Thesaurus will make your prose saggy and you may struggle to keep readers engaged. These days, they generally like to get to the action.
Seven ways to simplify
Try some of these easy ways to simplify your writing:
- Break up your paragraphs to prevent reams of text.
- Use more shorter sentences and maintain variety.
- Use dialogue and events to create ‘live action’.
- Be direct rather than overly descriptive.
- Write in an active voice, not passive.
- Watch those adjectives and adverbs. Less is more.
- Avoid using words most people have to look up.
Readers want a great story they can get lost in whether it’s a gripping thriller or a heart-stopping romance. If they have to pause and pay attention to the writing, they awake from their fictive dream.
When you simplify your writing, readers have a chance to get lost in your words, to become so gripped that they have to stay up until 2am to know what happens.
Keeping it simple doesn’t mean restricting your writing. It merely helps you to create a realistic story that keeps your readers engaged all the way to ‘The End’.