Tell Them Everything They Need To Know And Tell No More

I watched the pilot of The Carrie Diaries last night and realized that I have been meaning to blog more, but I have just enjoyed this month long break too much. This, as well as the article, “The Best Beginning: Clarity” from the Wall Street Journal, sent a spark back up to my brain convincing me that I must continue to write.

I will post the article here, but first I wanted to share a few quotes that I loved from The Carrie Diaries; which, if you are not aware explores Carrie Bradshaw’s life before she moved to the big apple to become a writer as well as fashionista.


Leave it to Carrie Bradshaw to have a great sense of fashion…I secretly wish I lived in the 80’s where “Madonna [was the one who] took the lord’s name in vein”

The show starts off with this quote, “They say the key to being a writer is figuring out who you are… finding your own voice”

I think this is true for anyone who is an aspiring writer. Writing and finding your own voice takes practice. It’s not simply something that happens over night. It is a journey that you go through with yourself, and on the way through the exploration you, hopefully, find your voice so that you can share it with millions, or simply a few, readers.

“To tell the truth or create a life for myself I’ve always wanted to live”

The best part about writing is that you can create any fantasy or version of yourself you like. Whether it be the truth or not, it simply doesn’t matter.

“Love is something we wait for, we imagine our first sex, our first kiss, our first I love you, but we never imagine our first heartbreak. Maybe because its too painful to even imagine but in a way the pain of love truly changes us its the losing of love that makes us who we are. Life gets more complicated but also filled with promise and the possibility of opening hearts to new beginnings, new dreams and new places. Things are no longer a fantasy. I’m searching for me: who I was and who I wanted to be.”

I think this one is pretty self explanatory.


The Best Beginning: Clarity

To write is to talk to strangers. You want them to trust you. You might well begin by trusting them. No doubt you know some things that the reader does not—why else presume to write?—but it helps to grant that the reader has knowledge unavailable to you. This isn’t generosity; it is realism.

Good writing creates a dialogue between writer and reader, with the imagined reader at moments questioning, criticizing, and sometimes, you hope, assenting. What you “know” isn’t something you can pull from a shelf and deliver. What you know in prose is often what you discover in the course of writing it, as in the best of conversations with a friend—as if you and the reader do the discovering together.

Writers are told that they must “grab” or “hook” or “capture” the reader. But think about these metaphors. Their theme is violence and compulsion. They suggest the relationship you might want to have with a criminal, not a reader.

Beginnings are an exercise in limits. You can’t make the reader love you in the first sentence or paragraph, but you can lose the reader right away. You don’t expect the doctor to cure you at once, but the doctor can surely alienate you at once, with brusqueness or bravado or indifference or confusion. There is a lot to be said for the quiet beginning.

Consider the most memorable first line in American literature: “Call me Ishmael.” Three words. Cited out of context, it can be taken as a magisterial command. It’s more properly heard as an invitation, almost casual, and, given the complexity that follows, marvelously simple. If you try it aloud, you will probably say it rather softly, conversationally.

Meek or bold, a good beginning achieves clarity. A sensible line threads through the prose; things follow one another with literal logic or with the logic of feeling. Clarity isn’t an exciting virtue, but it’s a virtue always, and especially at the beginning of a piece of prose. Some writers seem to resist clarity, even to write confusingly on purpose. Not many would admit to this.

One who did was the wonderful-though-not-to-be-imitated Gertrude Stein: “My writing is clear as mud, but mud settles and clear streams run on and disappear.” Oddly, it’s one of the clearest sentences she ever wrote.For many other writers, clarity simply falls victim to a desire to achieve other things, to dazzle with style or to bombard with information. It’s one thing for the reader to take pleasure in the writer’s achievements, another when the writer’s own pleasure is apparent. Skill, talent, inventiveness, all can become overbearing and intrusive. The image that calls attention to itself is often the image you can do without.

The writer works in service of story and idea and always in service of the reader. Sometimes the writer who overloads an opening passage is simply afraid of boring the reader. A respectable anxiety, but nothing is more boring than confusion.You can’t tell it all at once. A lot of the art of beginnings is deciding what to withhold until later, or never to say at all. Take one thing at a time. Prepare your readers, tell everything they need to know in order to read on, and tell no more.

Journalists are instructed not to “bury the lead”—instructed, that is, to make sure they tell the most important facts of the story first. This translates poorly to longer forms of writing. The heart of the story is usually a place to arrive at, not a place to begin. Of course the reader needs a reason to continue, but the best reason is simply confidence that the writer is going some place interesting.

Posted on January 15, 2013, in Fashion, January, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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