Tuesday, January 4, 2011


Since at the end of last year I was making a plea for including “story” or plot in the family of fictional elements, and to that end maybe exaggerating slightly the emphasis put on language, let me say this year how important language is. Here’s a quote I’ve used before but is, for me, one of the best. Mr. Mark Twain, “The difference between the almost right word and the right word is the difference between the lightening bug and the lightening.” That kind of says it all, but here’s a simple example:

I’m walking up a wide path.

I’m walking up a big path.

I’m walking up a huge path.

I’m walking up a large path.

Each of these sentences is the same except for the adjective. To me, though, the first is much stronger than the second, third, and fourth. It gives a specific image of the path while big, huge, and large do not. How a writer says what he or she says, how he or she rewrites to say it with as much clarity and precision as possible, is the foundation of any good story.

Or so I think today.


Lisa Gail Green said...

I think that's great advice. We concentrate so much on plot, structure, character, voice, and world that we forget how important words are. We are artists and words are our medium.

Brian Yansky said...

Thanks, Lisa--true. I'm pretty much constantly amazed at how much can be done with words.