Dont Show Off When You Write

If you have a special area of expertise - If you're a nurse, for example, or a lawyer-your specialized knowledge may be a gold mine you can use as background for your stories. Fiction readers love learning about new things as they read a good story.

If you have a rich and extensive vocabulary, that may also prove to be a useful tool. Or if you happen to be a widely read person, or more cultured and schooled in the arts than the average citizen, this too may help you when you write your fiction.

But just as a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing, too much erudition may be fatal to your fiction if you succumb to the temptation to show it off.

Good fiction writers never show off: dump in abstruse knowledge for its own sake, or purposely use big words when simpler ones would do. They constantly seek ways to work in necessary background information in as unobtrusive a way as possible, and they remember that readers get irritated quickly if a writer's style sends them to the dictionary once or twice every paragraph.

You must remember that readers do not read your story to hear how smart you are, or how complicated you can make your sentences. If you insist on showing off in your copy, readers will flee in droves. It's possible to put even very complex ideas in relatively simple language, and it's equally possible to tell your readers a great deal of fascinating information without making it sound like a self-serving show-off act.

Here's an example of the kind of thing you must not do:

In an obscurantist deluge of extraneous verbiage as an outgrowth of an apparent excessive effort to manifest extraordinary intellectual attainment, the aforesaid man impacted adversely on the totality of his audience in a veritable paradigm of irrelevance.

What the writer was trying to say was:

The man tried to impress people by talking too much, but nobody liked it.

You might want to examine yourself-and your copy-for smart-alecky stuff like this. You might also comb your copy for specialized terminology that might be written more simply and for information you've put in the story just to show how much you know, rather than because it really contributes to the story.

For nobody likes a smart aleck, and fiction readers can sniff one out a mile away.

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