We only have a limited amount of words to use when writing. Your massive dictionary filled with a plethora of exciting words gets slashed to a skinny pamphlet since a typical reader only reads somewhere between a sixth- to ninth-grade level (depending which stats you read). Add to that: most readers are stressed, crazy-busy, lack sleep, are pulled in a million directions, have constant distractions, and can rarely sit still and focus. So you have to write brilliantly to overcome all these obstacles and capture your readers.
How? Eliminate fancy words, cut down long descriptions, and don’t spell everything out. Just use simple words and common experiences—in creative ways—to instantly connect with your readers.
Here are some examples where the main character is feeling impending doom right before something terrible happens.
AMATEUR WRITING (my examples):
“I can feel dread and apprehension weighing me down like a bowling ball.”
“I can tell something terrible is going to happen next. My heart is pounding like a drummer on steroids.”
Noooo … those were awful! Now read a brilliant writer’s wording (try reading it in a panicked whisper):
“I can sense the next thing rolling toward me like a rumble of thunder right before lightning strikes.”
Quote by Sibella Giorello from her book Stone and Spark (YA mystery/suspense). Notice how Sibella uses simple words and common visuals—easy for everyone to understand. But we feel the character’s dread. We hear the menacing rumbling thunder and cringe, knowing lightning is ready to strike. And in the book—it does!
Another example by Sibella from The Stones Cry Out (adult mystery/suspense):
“Waves of dread washed over me. The feeling was weighted, heavy as some anchor thrown to stop a canoe from tumbling over the falls; the cliffs were still there, still waiting, but the plunge had been delayed.”
When you read these lines in the context of the story, it’s utterly gripping. But notice how she uses simple words and simple visuals—easy to connect with—in such a potent way that we see/feel/sense everything as vividly as the main character. That’s what will keep your readers riveted and reading long, long into the night, ignoring everything else in their lives, completely engrossed in your writing. Success!
Savvy Writer Tip:
The most powerful and effective writing eliminates complex words, lengthy descriptions, and spelling out the details of scenes and emotions. Captivate your readers using common words in such well-crafted phrases that they are pulled into your world and can’t get out. Now that’s brilliant writing! 🙂