The late Raymond Carver, a master of literary minimalism, has choice words for those of us who try too hard.
If you write for an audience — be it millions of strangers or your mom — you inevitably think about how your words appear to others. Very often, this self-consciousness results in overstuffed prose and too-clever storytelling. Here to remind us of the virtue of simplicity in writing is Raymond Carver, a master of narrative and linguistic economy:
“I hate tricks. At the first sign of a trick or gimmick in a piece of fiction, a cheap trick or even an elaborate trick, I tend to look for cover. Tricks are ultimately boring, and I get bored easily, which may go along with my not having much of an attention span. But extremely clever chi-chi writing, or just plain tomfoolery writing, puts me to sleep. Writers don’t need tricks or gimmicks or even necessarily need to be the smartest fellows on the block. At the risk of appearing foolish, a writer sometimes needs to be able to just stand and gape at this or that thing — a sunset or an old shoe — in absolute and simple amazement.”
Raymond Carver, Fires: Essays, Poems, Stories