The Art of Brevity; Poetry, Screenplays, and Blogs
Updated: Mar 28, 2021
Brevity in writing is both the chop saw and the chisel. Poetry, screenplays, and blogs are all shaped into formats much like the shape of cut wood.
The intention of brevity in poetry is both emotive and rhythmic. This pulse creates the momentum of a poem which shapes its style and size. A concise format of a poem can reveal the tone and lend ease in its delivery.
The intention of brevity in screenplays is to pace action and keep it moving. Throughout the script writing process, one is constantly aware of the 90–120 pages limit which shapes the timing of structural elements.
The intention of brevity in blog posts is to inform. The goal is specifically to move interest forward, much like the action in a script, information builds momentum. Blogs are concise and shaped to direct attention.
In poetry, metaphor can be a potent way to give emotional weight while conserving words. A brief snapshot can illicit all the imagery needed to complete an intention. Here is an example of a poem I wrote, small but mighty:
Leaf on an Autumn trip,
love like daybreak
In screenplays, when you build clear and concise motivation, you minimize description. For narrative description, David Trotter, author of The Screenwriter’s Bible, says, “Be lean and clean.” I love the following example Trotter uses to show how the metaphor of a bridge can reveal emotion in a scene:
Kimmy says, when you love someone,
you say it. You say it out loud.
Right now. Or the moment…
He pauses. Jules wants to say. They are under the bridge, silent for a long moment, and
then past the bridge. She's misty-eyed.
…passes you by.
In a blog, each sentence is weighted to stand on its own. Conclusions are surmised quickly. Every sentence makes a point no matter its placement in the body of the post. Here is an example from a post I wrote for EcoHost on sustainable travel; notice it could appear anywhere in the piece:
When traveling, eco-friendly guests desire to “stay” the way they live, and we are on
track to fulfill their needs.
The chisel creates the masterpiece, the taking away is what keeps. When your words feel cluttered or meaningless, when there are too many words not saying enough, you need the chisel.
The beauty of brevity forces the writer to replace empty words with meaning. To offer clarity, one must have a deep understanding of their intentions.
Three power questions to eliminate empty words:
1) “What am I trying to say (poetry), reveal (screenplay), or convey (blog)?” This simple question is deceiving but to ask it you must first be honest about a particular dissatisfaction. There are usually layers beneath layers when you have written something which stands out and bothers you. It is amazing how deep this question can take you. You can go deeper once you think you know the answer by asking, “What am I REALLY trying to say, reveal, or convey?”
2) “How am I personally attached?” A personal attachment to your writing project can either reveal or block depth. In a screenplay, you may need to step out of the way of a character’s action, however, in a poem you may need to step in. Your history and emotional baggage can either be building blocks or roadblocks. In a blog, personal experience can add unique flavor to a food post or adventure to a travel post. Be aware of how you carve the language of a piece, as a witness or an active participant.
3) “How does this make me feel?” This question needs to be asked after you have walked away and are ready to re-read what you have written. Does the poem emit the love you intended? Is your interest held in the blog post? Trotter states, the scene should clearly allow you to “see” and “hear” what you describe, and when it does, “The result will be that she will ‘feel’ what you want her to feel.” Can you see and hear? When you truly sense how the work feels you can trust it will feel the same to the reader.
I promise you clarity if you carefully answer these three power questions. When you know what you want to say, words are fewer. Brevity reveals the confidence of a writer while allowing for a confident read.