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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
If someone finishes my book and can't remember physically reading it, I consider it mission accomplished. I try to write simply, directly and visually, without clever prose, without complicated grammar and devoid of anything that might distract or interrupt the reader and remind them they are reading a book. In short, my actual writing should be invisible and only the story and experience should resonate with the reader.

This seems to go against the grain for many writers, but to me, perfecting a kind of 'silent voice' is my ultimate goal when writing popular fiction.

Is this something anyone else does?
 

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I'm not sure if I would characterize it as silent voice, but I do try to avoid any kind of purple prose or long, drawn-out explanations when I write. I think I tend to err on the side of under-describing locations and things like that, partially because I don't want to bog down the text and partially because I think the reader is going to imagine their own version anyway-- after all, that's what I do.

That said, I think there's plenty of room for wandering, Proust-like works that are all about nuanced descriptions and beautiful turns of phrase; it just doesn't feel right for me at the moment.
 

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From the time I was a teenager, I've thoroughly enjoyed analyzing books for their grammar, word choice, symbols, etc. Obviously, the story should flow well, but analyzing a book actually adds to the enjoyment for me. I feel the same way about photography and movies. I enjoy analyzing the way photographs are presented, the cinematography of a movie, etc. :)
 

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Nope, in both my reading and writing, there are few things I enjoy as much a clever sentences used in clever ways to tell clever stories. Fortunately, fantasy novels (my preferred genre) are not shy on authors with clever words. I most recently read "Those Above" by Daniel Polansky. He has a beautiful command of language.

Michael Sullivan probably most closely follows your writing philosophy. I love his stories, but yeah...
 

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If I forget I've read something, it's usually because it was so unremarkable that it failed to make an impression. I've had books floating around for years that I've looked at, gone, "oh, this has been sitting here forever.  I should read it," and then got two chapters in before realising I had read it multiple times.

I want the books I read to haunt me. When I read Sideways, it threw me into a depressive funk that lasted about a fortnight, and completely ruined the movie for me. The fact that I have the same name as the main character probably contributed to some of it, but it resonated so loudly with me that I couldn't put it down, and then just wallowed in misery afterward. Amazing book. I hate it so much.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
ML-Larson said:
If I forget I've read something, it's usually because it was so unremarkable that it failed to make an impression. I've had books floating around for years that I've looked at, gone, "oh, this has been sitting here forever. I should read it," and then got two chapters in before realising I had read it multiple times.
I'm not interested in making my writing remarkable, only the stories.
 
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I have to admit that I tend to be a little light on description and I avoid long winded prose like the plague. I do want people to remember it though, I want them to finish the book and feel lost because they are no longer in that world.

Some of the best fantasy and science fiction books I have read have been those where after I have finished I am unable to start a new book because I am still stuck in the world that author created. I want more of those characters and to not have it means days of searching for something remotely similar to try and connect with a story again.
 

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Rhayn said:
I want more of those characters and to not have it means days of searching for something remotely similar to try and connect with a story again.
Always bittersweet.

During my last few passes on a book, I'm focusing in large part on removing roadblocks for the reader, things that might trip them up or (unintentionally) slow them down. Well-turned phrases are great, but not if they stand out like a shiny Rolex in a trash heap*-they have to blend in. I'm also focused on bringing the writing more to life: replacing clichés, making description and actions and characters more concrete, etc., again with the aim of making it feel like one smooth piece. While I don't want the writing to distract, I also don't want it to go down so easy that the book's forgotten as soon as the last page is turned.

(*If the shiny Rolex is attached to a severed arm, that's okay to find in one of my fictional trash heaps. :D)
 

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SteveHarrison said:
If someone finishes my book and can't remember physically reading it, I consider it mission accomplished. I try to write simply, directly and visually, without clever prose, without complicated grammar and devoid of anything that might distract or interrupt the reader and remind them they are reading a book. In short, my actual writing should be invisible and only the story and experience should resonate with the reader.

This seems to go against the grain for many writers, but to me, perfecting a kind of 'silent voice' is my ultimate goal when writing popular fiction.

Is this something anyone else does?
I am not a fancy writer, and according to reviews, my books are easy to read. I take that as a compliment because like you, I'm not trying to impress anyone with my vocabulary, but try to give readers a story that keeps them turning the pages and a character or two to connect with and root for. Readers who enjoy literary fiction probably will think my writing is too simple, but that's fine with me. I have nothing against literary fiction and enjoy reading it from time to time and admire the beautiful turns of phrase that many of those authors come up with. It's just when I'm in my character's head, they're usually preoccupied with a problem where their life is at stake, or someone close to them because I write thrillers. That doesn't give them a lot of time to wax poetic. ;) Although, one book did come close when the character was imprisoned and I filled some of his time there when he was deep inside his head.
 

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Unless it is literary fiction, I prefer shorter, simpler prose. Too fancy and it makes the story drag and bores me to death. I do believe the best writers can turn heads with their words and keep the story going, but when I read most genres I'm more interested in the story and characters than how pretty the words are. It's how I write, too. Most of my genre work is meant to tell a story and not make people pull out a dictionary.
 

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'Good writing' is not good writing most of the time. As for me, I try to make everything simple and straightforward, intending to entertain rather than impress. But who doesn't have the urge to be flashy once in a while? It can add richness, but use the secateurs when it gets too much.
 

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Remarkable, compelling prose isn't necessarily flowery or convoluted. Far from it, in fact. But there's a vast difference between simple and effective, amazing writing and the barely functional prose that makes me believe the author has nothing interesting to say about anything.



 

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SteveHarrison said:
I try to write simply, directly and visually, without clever prose, without complicated grammar and devoid of anything that might distract or interrupt the reader and remind them they are reading a book.
In a workshop I once heard Denis Johnson refer to this type of writing as "transparent." It's the type of writing I prefer and aspire to. I think Patricia Highsmith's books are a good example of it.
 

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You can write simple and memorable prose. Actually, it's harder than writing something complicated IMHO. What I hate are sentences you have to read twice. If the reader doesn't "get it" the first time then you should rework the sentence.
 

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In our writing, if the character with POV isn't describing their surroundings just like they would, then the scene is a farce and it gets trashed. Thus, scenes will often fluctuate with how much or how little things are described, patterns of thought are expressed, etc.

Edit to add: this pretty much means that if a character's personality has them write dramatically, intricately, or whatever, then that's what gets put down regardless. But it's totally possible, in my opinion, for a reader to be so engrossed in the story that even prose that aren't basic or too simple only spark the imagination instead of battling it. But, that's just me and my reading preferences/experiences.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Marianne Fox said:
In a workshop I once heard Denis Johnson refer to this type of writing as "transparent." It's the type of writing I prefer and aspire to. I think Patricia Highsmith's books are a good example of it.
Ah, that's a much better explanation of what I am trying to say. Thanks, Marianne!
 

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I think people in this thread are conflating "simple" with "bland."  Bland is unremarkable.  If you are unremarkable, you're boring and nobody will remember you.

Harry Potter had simple prose, but it wasn't unremarkable.  It was aimed at a young audience, and the prose reflected that by  not being overly complicated.  But it was still impactful and could be quite vibrant.
 
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