Runcie and I climbed slowly closer towards the sharp edge of the cliff. The sharp stones were hard beneath our feet and with each step I could feel the jagged edges ripping through my cheap sandals. We walked and walked until we came to the chasm. The space stretched down beneath us, and the overflowing river flowed past many feet below, filled with angular rocks. There was only one way across. My heart was beating heavily in my chest. Thump! Thump! Thump! I looked at Runcie; sweat was dripping down his thick brow into his eyes. He always said he was fearless, but I knew that he wasn’t. I looked down again at the gulf, and shuddered.
The above paragraph is a slightly exaggerated example of the writing that I dislike. I mean, what’s really happening? The two characters have walked towards the edge of a cliff, and looked down. Why does the writer (me, in this case) need over 100 words to tell us this? Such writing surely insults the intelligence of the reader.
I call this kind of writing micro-description—that is, breaking events in a story down to a micro-level. Often, such writing is extremely boring. Of course, all writers have their own style, and my style happens to rather concise. Many other writers enjoy creating more ‘flowery’ prose, and do it very well. However, many others write micro-description in an attempt to add colour—or disguise a thin plot—and end up making their writing exhausting. If I were to include the above scene in one of my books, I would most likely write something like:
Runcie and I climbed over the sharp stones towards the edge of the cliff. It was a sheer drop; the dark water, broken by rocks, flowed past far beneath us. Even the ‘fearless’ Runcie was sweating. I shuddered.
Many modern writers have a habit of micro-describing. A good antidote for writers in this habit is Voltaire’s Candide. In less than 100 pages, the eponymous protagonist is expelled from a Baron’s castle, captured by the Bulgars, caught in a storm, caught in an earthquake, flogged… he meets a Hebrew, meets Jesuits, kills his lover’s brother, visits Eldorado, visits France, visits England, visits Venice, visits Constantinople… Voltaire ends with a deeply philosophical conclusion that ties the story together and makes the reader think. Even in translation, Voltaire’s prose is fresh, crisp and concise—most importantly, it never bores the reader!
My own novel, Martin King and the Space Angels, is very concisely-written—even to the point of shocking the occasional reader. Some people have expressed irritation at my supposed ‘sparseness’. Others have praised my concision. However, there is one criticism that is virtually impossible to level at my work—that of boring the reader. I sincerely hope that nobody will ever be bored by my work. And if you do ever decide to micro-describe, please have a good reason for it!
James McGovern is an author and poet. Martin King and the Space Angels, the first book in the Martin King series, is available on Amazon.
"The book draws you into its world in the same way that the Harry Potter books do." Kophi (5 -star Reviewer).
"If you like Percy Jackson, Twilight, or The Mortal Instruments, chances are you'll love Martin King." Teen eBook Review.
"Reminiscent of Ron, Harry and Hermione." Lucinda (5-star Reviewer).
"Martin King is something like a cross between Harry Potter and Frodo." Meghan (Top 500 Reviewer).
Martin King is just an ordinary teenage boy in love with a girl… until he gets a superpower.
An evil force called XO5 is looking for something on Earth – something dangerous. Martin King and his friends must find it first.
Martin, Darcy and Tommy soon find themselves caught up in a massive, universal conspiracy.
But who really is the mysterious XO5 – and what does he want with Martin?
This is the first book in the electrifying Martin King series. With it's gripping plot, exciting characters and readability, the book has been compared to the novels of of J.K. Rowling, Rick Riordan and Cassandra Clare. Martin King and the Space Angels has been described as a "majestic masterpiece" and "one of the most entertaining YA fantasy-science fiction novels". If you're looking for a thrilling, sensational, romantic page-turner from an exciting new author, you'll love Martin King.
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Genre - Young Adult, Teen, Sci-Fi
Rating – PG
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