The Padding Experiment
In an effort to improve my writing, I've been reading "with purpose" quite a lot lately. I've been going through stories of all lengths keeping track of how the author went from point A to point B to point C. Even if you're not a writer yourself, it's a very interesting study; especially for books that have clever twists and turns in them. How did I not expect that? Yet, at the same time, it makes perfect sense.
I've always been a concise writer. It's just how my brain functions. But as I work on more and more short stories, I've become acutely aware of the concept of "padding." For a short story writer, padding is the worst possible offense. Adding extra words just for the sake of adding words can totally ruin a story belonging to a genre that relies on intense reactions to situations.
In a novel, padding is not only an accepted practice, but also highly encouraged. "I just loved the beautiful, in-depth descriptions of the elfin culture. The minute detail of their day-to-day lives pulled me into their world." Is that minute detail really necessary? Not really. Does it add anything to the novel? Arguable.
Which is why I propose all of you to accept the challenge of "The Padding Experiment." Now, I'm not trying to turn everyone into cynical jerks. I enjoy beautiful descriptions just as much as the next person. It's just an intellectual exercise. While reading the next book you pick up, just detach yourself every once in awhile and analyze the scene or dialog exchange you just read. How much of it was really necessary? What did it add to the novel? Could that particular scene have been described in just a few words? Or was the length needed?
With today's reading "world" obsessed over word count, I find this is a very eye-opening experiment. People won't buy books because they're not a certain number of words long. Publishers won't publish stories because they're not a certain length. The list goes on. Point being, what are all those words really saying?