The Simple Advice

I’ve been writing stories since I was in the third grade, I think. I started with horror stories and the following year I ventured to my first fantasy story, which was a bland ripoff of some science-fantasy anime I used to watch.

Anime and film had been my inspirations. Books were never a thing for me until I was much older. So in my younger years, I basically skipped the basics, and did a bunch of experiments I thought at that time were brilliant.

In the end, there were not at all that great. Fast forward a few years later, my first books were Harry Potter one to the “Order of the Phoenix.” I had, at that time, also read “A Game of Thrones” and “The Gunslinger.” And I thought I’ve learned a lot from those.

The first ever epic I’ve written was called “Dragon Wars,” I was in my third year high school, and I’ve gone halfway through it before deciding to show chapters to some friends and to my grandma. Of course my friends liked it, of course they did. Grandma liked it too, so, of course she would give me a pat on the back. However, she added, “You should explore more on writing simpler sentences.”

I refused. I wanted to be eloquent and dramatic! I was thinking, she didn’t get it. She hadn’t read the books I’ve read, which were, what exactly? Harry Potter, Thrones, and Gunslinger. Nah. I wanted to write shit sentences like, “The susurrus of thousands of leaves rustling in the cold and violent night allowed him to see through the prestidigitation and blahblah.”

In short, I was a thesaurus whore, thinking the more complicated words I used, the more lyrical and more poetic my words would sound. I only realized I’d look like an asshole. I looked at Rowling’s books and King’s, and found that all they ever used in their stories were simple words. Words that paint images as soon as you read them. George RR Martin’s prose is just as easy to read, he never used words that would make you flip through a dictionary, or make you pause to wonder what the fuck did that word mean.

As my readings expanded, I learned that most authors just use words so simple, the story moves on in a fluid and comprehensive pace. And it’s a wonderful experience to go through that phase. The problem is this, it’s how you construct the sentences, how you piece together these simple words to bring out readers’ imaginations.

Later I started reading a bunch of books about writing. There’s a lot of useful advice out there that can inspire writers. But I found that “The Elements of Style” by Strunk and White to be the best source for writers, because they teach you the most basic form of writing from which you can build upon your own voice.

It’s a lesson I’ve learned the hard way as works I’ve been so proud of were crushed or dismantled by beta readers and critics. It’s an experience worth going through and I like to think that my voice has grown over the years. But I’ll never forget that aspect, where you need to write with simple words to build a story that every reader can understand.

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