Word bloat is just what it says. It’s when a writer has used too many word24s to describe something. You don’t have to describer every single detail. A broad description is good enough. Too many details can be boring and result in an info dump. This is not good. We want to avoid being boring. Large blocks of information is also boring. Most people skip over them when reading.
Let’s face it, no one wants to read the following description. Jim, a young man with long dark hair and dark eyes, wearing a red shirt and jeans, ran out to pick up the major league regulation baseball. He stood there, in the middle of the street, and examined the ball. The stitches were so precise. Blah blah blah.
I lost you with the description of Jim, didn’t I? You don’t have to pack all the description of Jim into the first time we meet him. That’s word bloat. Let’s look at that small scene again.
Jim raced into the street, scooped up the ball and threw it back into the game. Then he jogged back to the outfield. His long dark hair fluttered in the breeze.
That’s a lot shorter and is more active. That’s what you want to do. Keep the action flowing. Add details here and there. We can assume that Jim is wearing clothes. We can describe them later. Or you can show him getting up, showering, and dressing earlier in the story. That’s where you would add in the details of the clothing.
Action scenes are for action. Make the words work towards that. Description is good, don’t get me wrong. It should not dominate you action scenes. If it does, that’s word bloat. Describe the action, but don’t go overboard. Your role as a writer is to suggest to the reader what the characters are doing. Then, let their imaginations visualize it. The best writers give enough details that their readers’ imaginations can take over. That’s the goal of an author, to work with the imagination of the reader.
Another way to find word bloat is to look for the places where you added words because you thought you needed them. If you said it without the added words in the first place, chances are very good you didn’t need the added words. It’s as simple as that.
So, how do we overcome word bloat. Read your work. Read it aloud or have your computer read it to you if you can. You’ll know the bloat by how slow the action becomes. Read you work, sentence by sentence. Can you say it with fewer words without losing meaning? If you can, you should.
Word bloat can make your story lose momentum. The momentum is what moves your story along. It carries your reader to the end of the story. So, keeping it moving is good. Cut out any words that don’t do that. Your story will be better for it.
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