"When dawn spreads its paintbrush on the plain, spilling purple... ," Songs of the Pioneers song from TV show "Wagon Train." Dawn on the mythic Santa Fe Trail, New Mexico, looking toward Raton from Cimarron. -- Clarkphoto. A curmudgeon's old-fashioned newspaper column, cross-breeding metaphors and journalism and art, for readers in 150 countries.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Going for the drama, brevity in writing-I

"Lose the drama" says a little plaque in my daughter's house, directed at the kids.
Good advice in relationships, but not in writing.
So tomorrow, I'll go for drama, when I speak to the Oklahoma City Writers group at Full Circle Bookstore, conducting a workshop on "Going for the Drama."
My experience as a journalist, and in teaching various writing class at UCO and for OPA has focused my attention on the need for drama in all writing.
I think the writer's first commandment is to be interesting, and to do that you have to grab your readers' attentions. It's even more important now than before because in the digital age, all our attention spans are melting faster than ice on a hot Oklahoma August day.
So what's on tap for tomorrow?
I'll recommend a book, but it's not a text book. It's Several Short Sentences about Writing by Verlyn Klinkenborg, a former columnist "The Rural Life" for the New York Times. I required it of my students this year, and they loved it. How could you know, when he tells you to "forget everything you've learned about writing."
The book is full of short sentences and advice about improving your writing. He'll jog you. How about: "How long is a good idea?"  It's ironic in these days of melting attention spans that wordiness in all media, in government, in higher education, is growing faster than fungus on spoiled fruit on a hot Oklahoma day.
That's why I'll recommend the book because brevity is essential to drama, and good writing.
And since Shakespeare had it right, "Brevity is the soul of wit," that tells you something about the witless wonders in cable TV, in sports broadcasters, in government and higher ed administrators who wouldn't know a simple sentence if they saw one. The only exception I know is the Spurs' coach Gregg Popovich.
There's more to say about my workshop, but in the interest of keeping this short, that's all for this post.

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