With the advent of spring, many of us begin to shed excesses of all kinds. It happens organically as we shed layers of clothing and open the drapes. Some of us cut our hair. Some of us lose weight. Some of us exercise more. Some of us renovate our homes. Some of us donate things we don’t need anymore. And why? To breathe in fresh air, create a new view, take a lighter stand in the world – all of which serve to make us stronger and more present. To reflect the sun.
And as we ourselves do in the spring, we can do as well with our stories—toss off the heavy blankets and open the windows to let in light and air. Ridding our stories of excess – extraneous details, repetitive description, slowly-paced action –is the very best way to make our stories stronger and more present. Paring away excesses – choosing one stronger descriptive sentence over another, condensing ideas, keeping dialogue realistic in its crispness and fast flow – can allow our stories’ characters to move comfortably and unrestrained through their geographical and emotional landscapes. This is not to say to diminish the story in any way, nor to pare it down so much it lacks depth or richness. Rather, the challenge for our stories and characters, as it is for ourselves, is to reveal truths with a light and gentle touch.
There was a time some years ago when I wanted to lose weight. I was finally mentally ready to do so after resisting for quite a while – and as the weight came off, I became a lighter person both physically and psychologically. The process of shedding the pounds was also a process of shedding things which for so long I’d thought I needed to be whole, but which I found had actually become burdensome, preventing me from taking the lighter, but stronger, stand in the world. By me during that weight-loss journey and ultimate emergence, were many friends, of whom a vast number were authors and illustrators. Conversations during that time were fascinating and inspiring, as talks about losing weight seemed to merge naturally with talks about getting rid of excess in our lives and in our writing and artwork. We were one in the appreciation of the struggles, the lows, the highs, and ultimately, the fine results of relieving a person, a painting, a story from heavy obstacles that might inhibit them from reaching their full potential.
And so, this spring day calls to us -- ourselves and our characters -- to run and breathe and reflect the sun.
(c) emma d dryden, drydenbks llc