Thursday, April 4, 2013


In earlier literary eras writers could write and write, philosophize, describe, emotionalize, moralize. Not so in today's market, one driven by instant gratification.

There are a lot of  hungry fish in today's literary pond, and there is plenty of "food" for them. Today's author must hook the reader and keep him hooked. Keep him turning the pages. The reader can all too easily put the book down and pick up an a computer game or flip on the TV. Or take a nap.

As in the sport of fishing, a slack line catches nothing. The writer must keep the line taut, which means eliminating words or phrases that slacken the line.

Some "line slackening" words are: Soon, suddenly, seemed, quite, very that, which, slowly, however, but, as well as infinitives, participles, he or she thought, dreamed, made his way, looked, and of course, the dreaded passive tense. It's hard work to weed these words and phrases out of our prose or poetry. We think and use these words all the time.

The reader doesn't care. The reader wants action, and plenty of it. Keep that reader hooked.


  1. Oh, I don't know, Linda. I do hate literary blowhards but sometimes I like a more dreamy, imaginative prose style.

  2. I agree that hooking readers is important, Linda, but I think I agree with Ariel too. I think there are many ways this can be done. I think many of your "line slackening" words, while good to watch out for, can be used in the right situation. It is up to us as writers to make every word choice carefully.

    For me, what keeps readers turning the pages is writing the scenes that readers want to read (and leaving out the scenes that they don't). As our awesome J.L. always reminds us, keep ourselves focused on "the engine" of our story.

    But even with that goal, there are many ways we can do this. I always find it incredible how J.K. Rowling started the Harry Potter series. She started it with the Dursleys, and it is wonderful!!!

    So I guess what I'm trying to say is that the reader wants tension and interest that keeps them reading, but we as writers don't always have to provide that in the most obvious ways. :o)

  3. I think the crux of the matter is: does the writing develop character or plot? If so, I'm willing to read through a short "line slackening" section.