Sometimes the best writers are ones that aren’t seen.
Have you ever had that feeling? You know the one. While reading a book you feel the writer trying to show off? That frustration you feel when you know that big word really didn’t need to be there, especially when a simpler, more common term could be used to the exact same effect. Thankfully I’ve rarely encountered this, but there has been times where I’ve been pushed out of the story because of the writer’s intrusion. If this is a bit confusing, let me explain.
Some newer writers (I myself was once a victim as well) tend to show off their vocabulary skills by using words the casual reader wouldn’t grasp unless they reached for a dictionary. Trust me, that’s about as frustrating as it gets. They also tend to write something called “purple prose.” This is prose that’s so full of description and pretty words that it draws attention to itself rather than the story. It’s simply prose that’s so over the top it’s obvious the writer was showing off. Then we have the idea that using only the word said to describe a person speaking is the sign of an amateur writer. The truth is, it’s actually the other way around. Why? Because the word said is invisible. It doesn’t draw any attention to itself. It’s only purpose is to let the reader know who’s speaking (ask is another word like this). Words like queried, grumbled, gasped (and one I tend to use), sighed, aren’t invisible, so they draw attention to themselves and break the flow of the story. Most times the reader can tell the way a character is speaking just by the context of the sentence and the words alone, so adjectives other than said are really unnecessary.
This concept has got me thinking (you knew it was coming), do we take the idea of purple prose and attention breaking sentence structure into our own lives as well? If God’s the writer of our lives, are we letting His story shine through us, or are we getting in the way? Are we drawing the reader’s attention to ourselves other than the story God’s written in us?
I see those new Christians and new writers. They want to be super heroes, be the best, and save the day; and that’s brilliant. I reveled in that same place and learnt from my mistakes, as we all do. But as we grow and mature I’ve found myself realizing that we’re not the heroes, Christ is. Instead of saying, “Look how great God is,” we say, “Look how good I am!” Living righteously comes from a relationship with Christ, not our own works. Our holiness is a gift that was purchased with Christ’s blood, not our own.
So maybe it’s time we stopped drawing attention to ourselves. Maybe it’s time we stepped back to allow the story to really shine and capture the reader. Maybe it’s time to admit that we’re broken on our own. and that our stories are a mess. Maybe it’s when we stop worrying about the quality of our writing that the story really begins to come alive. All the quality will be added later on. But hey, I’m only working on the rough draft myself, and rough drafts are always dirt. But then again, isn’t it God who makes amazing things out of the dirt?