Less is more

As you may know by now, I am a lover of music and am a musician. It’s been a cursed thread running through my life from an early age and a particular focus has been the hard rock genre. When it comes to all things heavy metal, then the mantra is ‘everything louder than everything else,’ or ‘if it’s too loud then you’re too old.’ A dear friend, who is a producer, and into death metal, was adamant that ‘more is more’, whether it be sound levels, mastering or number of guitar parts on a track. I didn’t entirely disagree with him but still maintain that this is not universally applicable.

 

Several years ago, I read the autobiography of Gene Simmons, vocalist and bass player in the band, Kiss. Being a staunch capitalist and outspoken in his OTT attitude, I was initially fascinated by his approach of ‘More is better than less. However, in recent years, I have come to see that in the fields of music and literature, it’s often the opposite which is true. These days I tend to seek out music that has energy, or in Bono’s words, ‘gravity’. It isn’t necessary to have music playing at 120 dB to grab my attention. What I do look for is originality, melody and a strong lyric. The songmust ‘speak’ to me. Recently, I’ve been listening to a young solo artist by the name of Marika Hackman. She plays and sings very minimalistically, often with just a guitar as accompaniment. Her vocals are softly delivered, but the lyrics are dark and powerful. It’s like listening to a lullaby which whispers in your ear the promises of cannibalism and nightmare-filled drowse. You can check her out at http://youtu.be/atWGdL2nOgY – I challenge you not to be disturbed, provoked or inspired by what you see and hear.

And now to the world of literature. This last year has seen me trying to negotiate the steep learning curve which is the craft of writing. A number of things have gradually dawned on me:

  • The story isn’t finished until it has been extensively edited. That means plot, character arcs, dialogue, descriptions, spelling, punctuation and grammar. And it means this has to be done several times over.
  • There is virtue in skinny sentences. This means trimming the fat, cutting out unnecessary words. Saying the most in the least verbiage. It was only when re-reading some of my favourite authors that I realised one of the reasons why they’re so good – each sentence is crafted to perfection.
  • I’ve discovered I suffer from several diseases: ‘that’ disease – the word is needed less often than it is used; ‘gerund’ disease – an over-preponderance of ‘ing’ words, especially starting sentences; ‘which’ disease – most times I ought to be using ‘that’ (which seems to contradict my first point!)
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I was told by my late English teacher that Shakespeare had the talent and skill to say a lot with few words. That is what I’m trying to aspire to. I’d like to write stories that people would like to re-read and get something new each time they do so. I think there’s a lot of hard graft ahead of me.

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