I’m sad to say it, it being my business and all, but there are just too many out there. Words, that is. As an essayist, I’m biased toward less is more, but I’m also a consumer of words, too and the truth is that I get so much more from what I’m reading – I remember it – when the right words carry the load.
Consider the text message. See if you get a profile of who the texter is here:
I don’t need you to get me.
Can we go bathing suit shopping?
Please call me.
Be out in front in 10.
Can you please drive me to work today?
Awesome I meet you outside.
Can we make dinner tonight? Caesar salad, chicken shnitzel and potatoes? I’ll help.
In study hall.
Can you pick me up?
Bought planner $5.
I’m at Marina’s.
There are less than 100 words above, but I think the reader gets that the texter is young (awesome) – probably high school age (study hall) – probably female (bathing suit shopping), active (pick me up; take me to work), social (I’m at Marina’s) and clearly a lover of chicken schnitzel. We also get that she is in fairly regular contact with the receiver, who is likely to be her mother (all those rides!)
These are the actual text messages sent to me by my eldest daughter when she was a sophomore in high school (when I did indeed feel like most of what I was going was picking her up and dropping her off!)
We don’t need gestures or words that tell us her tone. We just can hear her speak. The rhythm and word choices do that as do the topics.
Experiment with writing spare. When you focus on the nouns and the verbs, you get to the core of the character. Get that onto the page and after you have a sense of what’s there, you can bring in the poetic language.