JK Rowling and What I Learned About Being Brief

Posted: January 14, 2015 in Reflections, Writing
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Boy, do I owe her so much. Even today, I’m getting so much from her books. I’ve got to read her new novel one of these days.

It’s been a good day for me. Classes have been fun (I almost wish they’d last longer), work’s been going well, and I’ve already finished one chapter of Rose (six more to go!). And I’ve recently gotten another lesson in writing.

I’ve been listening to the Harry Potter audiobooks lately and I’m currently on Book 4 (Harry’s currently dealing with most of the school and his best friend hating him for being the fourth champion. Hang in there, Harry!). This was the series that made me want to be a writer in the first place. And you can get something out of the HP books at any age, I find. But I also remembered something that I’d forgotten about JK Rowling’s famous series: she can build such amazing images in our heads and do them with such few words.

I forgot about that, how every word is picked to be useful and poetic and not a single one seems wasteful. That sort of economic use of words is hard to come by, and she wields words so well in her books. I used to try to imitate that style when I was first starting out (I also was trying to write my own version of the Harry Potter series with a female protagonist, but that’s another story). Sometimes I didn’t use enough words! Though in my defense, most writers under the age of thirteen are very visual and we don’t always consider that our readers might need a few more words to visualize the story in their heads when we can see it just fine in ours.

As I grew up though, as I got better and I started getting published occasionally, I started using more, bigger words. I think that’s common with plenty of writers at many different ages. We want to sound smart, intelligent, eloquent with words. I’ve done it just now! Eloquent. That’s a word a lot of people know, but wouldn’t it just be fine to use “good with words”? And I used “economic” in the last paragraph. How about frugal? Or choosy? Or maybe even thrifty?

And we do it just to make ourselves look educated and verbose (there it is again). Sometimes we worry that our readers will get lost along the way, but we’re too afraid to stop! We’re afraid we won’t live up to people’s images of writers. Is it our vanity or our fears of how people look at us? Is there a difference? I’m not sure.

But I’m listening to the HP books, and it’s so precise with the words. And it’s a good story. Scratch that. It’s a great story (my mother would kill me with Avada Kedavra if I didn’t make that distinction). Maybe because JK Rowling wrote the HP books with kids rather than adults in mind, but she’s never worried about the words she’s using, about sounding intelligent or loqacious (again!). She just puts down the words as is needed.

Have to stop using words like I’m pulling them out of a thesaurus just because they’re big and fancy. It might be detrimental–darn it!

In my Business and Professional Writing class, we’ve been looking at how businesses and corporations and even school districts use lots of big words in order to sound like they’re qualified for their jobs. What it really does is sound like a robot has produced a lot of inpersonal and indecipherable terms (again) and let’s be honest, nobody likes an inpersonal robot, whether in real life or on the page.

It’s a crazy coincidence that it’s all happening at the same time, but JK Rowling and my class are teaching me something: that perhaps all those words are unnecessary, that instead of making me sound intelligent and articulate (trying to stop) they’re making me sound less like a person and more like a machine. And even though I do a great impression of a Cyberman, I’d rather not be mistaken for a robot.

So I’m going to try being less long-winded, switch to simpler words and get my point across in half the time. Heck, it might help me finally get a short story written in less than forty-five hundred words, something I’ve been trying to do for ages. And maybe it’ll make for a better story overall. We’ll see what happens.

For the present though, I’m certainly exhausted my patience for the overuse of ample language in the pursuit of resplendent storytelling and will henceforth cease such unreasonable actions for the betterment of my vocation and for the beneficial enhancement of my readership.

I’m done.

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