I always thought it had to be a photographer who said this, and one not overly fond of books. That is, until a friend sent me an email with the following word definitions inside:
Some of the pictures stirred real emotions inside me, made me think about all that was expressed by the image and captioned with one simple word. That’s when I realized that as an author, my job is to do exactly the same thing—create word pictures so deep and powerful that they stir the reader’s emotions. The problem comes when, by trying to accomplish this, the story becomes convoluted and wordy. It really doesn’t take pages of description and narrative to create a stirring and poignant word picture. What it takes is well-chosen words, words that convey the deepest and most stirring emotions, that reach into our spirit and manifest themselves into “pictures” that will stay with our readers forever.
Take this scene, for example:
Mary stared at the doctor, pain swelling her heart and flooding from her eyes. “John was so sick. For days and days, I prayed you’d make it in time. Even sent Rowdy out to find you, but he come back. . .he come back. . .alone. Why, Doc? Didn’t you know how bad you was needed? What on earth kept you so long?”
Now let’s pare it down:
Mary stared at the doctor, her pain flooding from her eyes. “I sent Rowdy to find you, but he come back. . .he come back. . .” She drew a breath, something—God help them—her John would never do again. “Oh, Doc, if you had only been here.”
Okay, so it’s not necessarily shorter, but I took extra care placing the pronouns in the second version, like calling the patient “her John” to show from Mary’s deep POV how cutting is her loss. I also cut out unnecessary words, replacing them with a bit of internal monologue. Hopefully, what resulted was a more poignant “picture” of Mary’s grief.
Funny, I always thought of myself as author, not an artist. Now I realize, I’m both.