Conciseness is the bane of my existence. When a professor explains an assignment, wrapping up with “seven page limit,” my hand is the first to shoot up in the air and ask just how elastic that limit is. Surpassing the maximum is my maxim. My sentences are seldom short. Instead, they run and unfold, a multiplicity of clauses, phrases and commas; striving almost to rival Dickens in their length and splendor.
I have always fancied myself a sort of crusader against reductionism. The modern attention span seems so short, only facilitated and perpetuated by short Buzzfeed one -liners. Captions punctuate pages of ubiquitous “GIF”s. And don’t even get me started on abbreviations and text lingo. (That is a rant for a different day and a different blog post).
Some philologists and linguists have hypothesized that as language evolves, we will no longer need more words to convey information. They hold that conveying meaning with minimum characters shows an advance in communication. While my lament and disagreement over this idea is something for a later day, it does make one consider the value of punchy, pithy statements. Especially in the world of publishing and advertisement, the ability to convey a point with minimal space is a valuable tool. What do you do if you are trying to decide what movie to watch. Maybe you read the back of the case. Or perhaps you read the TV guide synopsis. If it grabs your attention, you are willing to give it a shot. The same applies to reading new books. One of my astute classmates noticed that it seem to be in our natures to “judge a book by its cover.” If that is the case, your cover better take care to do justice to your book!
The other day a question was posited to our class: if you were asked to sum up your story in one or two sentences, could you do it? I personally cringed at the thought of reducing something I had worked weeks on to carefully craft for precision and elegance down to a couple measly lines. But then I thought about how useful it would be to regurgitate a handy blurb. Just like on a dust jacket or back cover, a potential reader could be sucked in. A little blurb has the ability to intrigue a reader and give your story a chance. The minimalist approach works in this case for it acts as an appetizer for the reader; the chips and spinach dip before cutting into the heavier steak and potatoes of your complex characters and deep plot twists.
“Brevity is the soul of wit,” as the saying goes. And that could not be truer than it is for advertising in the book world.