When I first began to write, I used to be so focused on language and its uses that I would pore over every word, forsaking the story. If a character sat in a chair, I couldn’t say, “He sat down.” I had to say it with verve; it had to sound flowery, poetic. I had to impress. This is not to say flowery, poetic language is not justified or desired, but the language should not call attention to itself, not in novels anyway. At least, in my opinion. Novels are stories, and the language is a tool we use to tell that story.
I still struggle against this desire, and to some extent, I believe all unpublished authors do. (And perhaps, published authors as well). We have to prove something to someone; we have to prove we master the language in which we write. However, as we mature as writers, this desire will diminish, and once we let it, we will discover that there is power in a simple sentence. There is a lot someone can say using only a few words. Sometimes, the less you write, the more you say.
Language is important, especially for those who dabble in it. But for me, the Story is the key. It is about that thing that writers write; it is the purpose of the craft. Without the story, we write mere sentences, but with the story, we are crafting character, ideas, purpose – we are saying something. That is what writers want to do; we want to say something.
Scott Keen is the author of three young adult fantasy novels, Scar of the Downers, Rise of the Branded, and War of the Downer King.