Simple language leads to perfect stories
Last night in our weekly Writer's Workshop we enjoyed Blackberries, a simple short story that our member Kathleen Clark showed me over our summer break. The Leslie Norris sudden fiction story -- another name for a short-short, under 1,000 words -- has few sentences that run beyond 15 words. Despite the brevity, the language is rich in feeling and detail. Here's one of the few, written about a blackberry vine.
His father showed him a bramble, hard with thorns, its leaves just beginning to color into autumn, its long runners dry and brittle on the grass.Just count the verbs to see why this sentence works so simply. Show. Hard. Color. Even the adjectives are doing verb work, like dry, or waxing specific with an action, like brittle. The nouns swing into action: bramble, thorns, leaves, runners, grass. Of 26 words, 10 breathe simple life into this writing. (Kathleen called the story "perfect." I struggle to find any reason to disagree.)
Blackberries, like many other stories in Sudden Fiction International, runs on three main characters and two minor players across the space of four printed pages. The writing doesn't shy away from using variations of the verb "to be" in various tenses. Norris considers that advice, of using better verbs than be or were, but uses these simplest verbs along with others. Much of the simplest writing does.