I enjoyed a nice, compact, entry today at Nieman Storyboard from author and writing teacher, Roy Peter Clark.

Clark suggests, to fiction and nonfiction writers, the usefulness of the “Narrative Overview.”

That’s what he calls a batch of quickfire facts and descriptions: one sentence to cover decades of backstory, or fill in the color of a newly introduced character.

Citing examples from Rosalind Bentley, Gabriel Garcia-Marquez, Tom French, and Robert Manning (appreciating Hemingway), Clark illustrates how effective this narrative shorthand can be.

Then Clark describes his a-hah moment, when he recognized the technique, from long ago in church:

This move is everywhere, I tell you. And why not?

I suddenly realized its familiarity and utility are almost 2,000 years old, expressed in the Nicene Creed, that act of faith recited in countless vernacular languages at Mass each day by millions of Catholics across the globe.

Gotta go experiment with it now.

2 thoughts on “Brevity

  1. Jerrold Maddox

    Simple and Clear Language

    Keep your sentences short and break your text into short paragraphs.

    Use the active voice, unless you have a good reason to use the passive. (Say ‘Janet crossed the street.’ not ‘The street was crossed by Janet.’)

    Avoid jargon, slang and acronyms, and link technical terms to a definition.

    Making Accessible Web Sites for
    the United Nations


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *