Ne’er So Well Expressed.

February 17, 2011 at 9:10 pm (By Amba)

I’ve heard this good writing advice before (I don’t always follow it, to my detriment), in words like “Your prose should be as invisible as a pane of clear glass.”  But I’ve never heard it put quite like this.

Having beautiful imagery, vibrant vocabulary, and full sensory-immersion is a good exercise for authors, but four or five hundred pages of it is too much. It’s tiring for the reader to process. Ideally, for most authors, your words should become invisible, and the story should take center stage. If the reader is continually awed by your linguistic gymnastics, your prose is competing with the story for the reader’s attention.


(Driven to desperation by the mismatch between the 13-hour plane flight and my 5-hour laptop battery, I read a dragon fantasy book by Patricia Briggs.  I enjoyed it more than I like to admit.)


  1. louisemowder said,

    Great blog there – very helpful insights on writing.

  2. mockturtle said,

    So true!!!

    BTW, I picked up ‘The Brothers Karamazov’ at the library today. I’ve never read any Dostoevsky but my experience with Russian literature [namely, Tolstoy] was hampered by the diversity of names for each character. So…I open this novel and there is a page entitled, “Principal Characters” and I see that Dmitri is also called Mitya, Mitka, Mitenka and Mitry. Aleksei is also called Alyosha, Alyoshenka, Alyoshka, Alyoshechka and Lyoshechka! :-O And this is just the tip of the familial iceberg, folks! Wish me luck!

  3. amba12 said,

    I tried that when I was 9, which really put me off the great Russians for a few decades.

  4. mockturtle said,

    Yeah, I was about 12 when I read ‘Anna Karenina’. Same result. So…did you read ‘The Brothers Karamazov” and was it worth it? It’s supposed to be his best novel.

  5. amba12 said,

    I’m embarrassed to say I have not. On the bright side, there’s another thing to look forward to.

  6. Ron said,

    I had a Christmas ritual at a horrible annual family party…I read “Notes from The Underground” to another equally ostracized family member. This got him into Russian lit…even though he was mainly a chemist!

    “Dostoevsky — the only psychologist I’ve ever learned anything from” — Nietzsche.

  7. mockturtle said,

    After only the first chapter I have settled most comfortably into this novel. I’m hooked! :-)

  8. Randy said,

    Welcome home! Have fun? I hear it snowed in Tokyo last week. We missed you.

  9. A said,

    I read ‘The Brothers Karamazov’ very slowly, fairly stoned, reclining with a glass of iced coffee in dappled morning sunlight, surrounded by tall blackberry bushes. Took about two weeks and worked out fine with all the names, far as I can remember. Days of leisure.

    Welcome back from Japan!

  10. amba12 said,

    Randy: and I worried about you. Any news??

    Yes, it snowed in Tokyo, and even more in Fukushima, where we stayed at a hot-bath hotel and trained barefoot in the snow a bit.

  11. Randy said,

    The hot-bath hotel and going barefoot in the snow sound like great fun to me! But then, I’m warm and cozy padding around the house in my socks my house at the moment ;-)

    The news is that there is no news. Well, actually, there IS news but I won’t know what it is until after a second free(!!!) MRI with the latest (and greatest?) dye called Eovist this Tueday. The original date (last Friday) was changed because they needed two blocks of time together for the first MRI. Spent 90 minutes inside the super-duper MRI operating at 3 Tesla power on Tuesday. The radiologist’s office called Wednesday morning and said that the radiologist had written his report, but would I mind coming back, at no charge, and doing another using a different dye (Eovist, approved for use in 2008. IIRC, the first MRI used Resovist). *LOL* What was I going to say? No?

  12. mockturtle said,

    Randy, you remain in my prayers. Hoping for a good outcome. :-)

  13. Donna B. said,

    Randy – hoping for a good outcome from here too. I can’t imagine 90 minutes in an MRI machine. Well, I can… but it makes my back spasm just to think of it!

  14. christopher said,

    Is it not as Rochefoucauld once said?

    “Some lies so well resemble the truth that we should be poor judges of the truth not to believe them…”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: