When writing a story, whether it’s fiction or non, too much information confuses your reader.
The phrase write tight should be tacked up to the bulletin board in the back of every writer’s mind. Long sentences will make your readers work too hard, but an economy of words makes their ‘read’ a joy. Remember if they lose their train of thought, they’ll have to reread the sentence and that will break up the flow of your story. But if you give them just enough information to keep the story moving forward their interest will be maintained and your story (if a good one) will keep them turning pages.
You’ll have to judge just how much ‘back story’ or side information to give them, but use no more than one or two ideas in a sentence. Your readers will love you for it.
In the examples below, you’ll see just how the additions of each idea complicates the sentence, making your reader work harder to understand your work.
- One idea
The pilot landed the crippled plane on the wrong runway.
- Two Ideas
The pilot landed the crippled plane on the wrong runway, then slowly taxied to a stop.
- Three ideas
The pilot landed the crippled plane on the wrong runway, then slowly taxied to a stop, as the passengers breathed a collective sigh of relief.
- Four ideas
The pilot landed the crippled plane on the wrong runway, then slowly taxied to a stop, as the passengers breathed a collective sigh of relief, and gathered up their belongings to exit the aircraft.
The first two sentences are fine, giving enough information to keep the flow of the story moving along. But the third begins to be over-kill and the fourth sentence drives a stake into the heart of your story. Keep sentences short and sweet – unless you’re writing a technical manual (then, of course, your reader MUST finish it) – and you’ll find that if your story idea is a good one, short, concise sentences will take your reader from the first page all the way through to the last. And they’ll love you for it.