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Old 01-29-2018, 12:47 PM   #1
delicious_man
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Less Is More: a writing exercise in the art of being succinct

A thread started by _Lynn_ (MistressLynn) challenges writers to expand upon a few lines of dialogue and turn it into a short scene: http://forum.literotica.com/showthread.php?t=682782

Her exercise gave me the idea for a different kind of writer’s challenge – essentially the reverse of the above. Instead of expanding upon a few lines, in this exercise I challenge writers to turn several paragraphs into a few lines of concise prose.

When it comes to writing well I believe it is important for every single word to have purpose. This exercise is all about practicing the art of weeding out the superfluous and reducing your text to what's actually required. So sharpen your shears and get ready to prune.

The rules of the exercise are as follows:

1. You begin with a passage of writing that has been set by the challenger. Your task is to reduce their work to a few sentences totalling less than 100 words. Get rid of all the detail that you consider to be surplus to requirements. Do away with any description that is unnecessary and reduce the text to what is required for the scene to work.

2. Now you get to set the next challenge. Compose a scene of around 300 – 500 words in length. Have fun with it. Feel free to waffle and ramble at will so that the next writer has something to work with. The scene you compose may be romantic, erotic or neither of these things. You can use any subject material you like. Just try to be inclusive and come up with something that the next writer might enjoy working with.
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Old 01-29-2018, 12:49 PM   #2
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An example

Here is an example of how the exercise might work:

Yolanda was out for drinks that evening with her two friends, Paris and Jasmin. They had chosen their usual table in the far corner of The Crown, the local pub. There was juicy gossip to discuss (Yolanda hadn’t been surprised to learn how Paris had ended up in bed with her latest date) and this was making her friends particularly loud and excitable. She sighed wearily, tired of hearing about the girls’ exploits. The last time she’d gone on a date with a guy it had ended disastrously. That was over a week ago now but Yolanda felt she was still getting over the trauma of it.

The trio had gone through their first bottle of red wine so Paris and Jasmin went to the bar together to get the next. After all the excited tittle-tattle from the others Yolanda was glad to be left to her own thoughts for a few moments. She was a whimsical brunette girl in her mid-twenties, one of those girls who always seemed to carry a faraway look in her eyes. Now alone, she reflected on the funny feeling she’d been getting that somebody kept looking at her. The back of her neck had been prickling all night. It was funny how you could be aware when someone was watching you, even if you couldn’t see them. She looked up at the suspected culprit.

Across the room was a man sat alone at a table drinking beer and reading a newspaper. He looked to be about thirty years of age and Yolanda was immediately struck by how good looking he was. Dressed in brown brogues, navy trousers and a well-fitted shirt he looked like he’d hit the pub straight from work.

Suddenly her suspicions were confirmed as the man looked up at her. Their eyes met and in that moment it seemed as if the hubbub of the pub disappeared. They were plunged into their own little world. The man had smouldering dark eyes. Yolanda thought he was completely gorgeous. She bit her lip and returned his gaze. Short dark hair, a strong jaw and clean-shaven; he was her type of guy alright. Yet out of the three of them Yolanda considered both of her friends to be better looking than her. Perhaps she’d been mistaken? Maybe he was looking for Paris? She nervously brushed her hair out of her eyes.

But she hadn’t been mistaken. A sudden shiver travelled up and down her spine. Was it the thrill of anticipation? Was it panic? The man had gotten up. He was coming towards her. There was no mistaking it.


The long version above, which 435 words long, is reduced to the following 92 words...

Her friends were gossiping but Yolanda wasn’t interested. All evening she’d been getting this peculiar feeling that someone was looking at her. There was a man wearing a shirt who was sitting on his own across the room, drinking a pint and reading a newspaper. When her friends got up to go to the bar Yolanda looked up at the man in question. Their eyes met and everything seemed to go quiet. She bit her lip, touched her hair. The man got up from his place. He was coming right towards her.
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Old 01-29-2018, 12:51 PM   #3
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Now that you have an idea of how this works I will set the first challenge. This one is 458 words. Try to retell this scene in less than 100 words.

Tristan was having a miserable day and his dismal mood seemed to be reflected in the slate-grey colour of the cloudy skies overhead as he trudged his usual route home from work. His boss had been causing him all sorts of grief and deadlines were looming. Middle-aged, divorced and rushed off his feet on an apparently unending basis, Tristan felt like he needed a break in life.

It started to rain. Typically, he hadn’t bothered with his coat when he left for work that morning because it had been looking like being a bright sunny day. So now his jacket and shirt were getting soaked. The rain came down harder and harder and plastered his hair to his head.

He turned onto the last street – the one he needed for his flat. There was a lady coming down the pavement towards him who caught his eye. It was getting late (he’d left work way past 6pm) and there weren’t many people about but even if the place had been crowded he would still have spotted her. How could she not catch his eye? She was a stunner. She couldn’t have been much older than thirty and she wore smart office attire and, sensibly, a big black overcoat which was doing a great job of keeping out the elements. Still, her hair was getting wet. But to Tristan’s mind this only seemed to improve her. She had such gorgeous red hair.

She was coming towards him, getting closer. His eyes were transfixed on her. He hoped he didn’t look weird but he didn’t think she could have noticed him. She was looking at her phone. They were about to pass each other when she finally glanced up at him.

Quite suddenly she gave a yelp as she went flying forwards. Her heels had caught on a drain cover, she stumbled and went sailing forwards in an arc, her face heading directly for a collision with the pavement. Acting on instinct, Tristan leapt to catch her and she landed softly into his arms. He lifted her up and set her back on her feet. She was looking at him now alright. He stood with his hands clutching her arms, holding her for what might have been an age. Raindrops gathered in her red hair.

Abruptly he seemed to come to his senses, as if waking up from a dream. He let her go and looked away rather self-consciously. She was still looking though. Tristan could feel her eyes on him. Finally, she spoke. Her voice was pure music.

‘Whew, that was lucky,’ she said breathlessly. ‘Thank you so much.’

‘No problem,’ said Tristan. He looked at her again. She was smiling. Perhaps this was the break he’d been looking for?
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Old 01-29-2018, 02:31 PM   #4
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It was a shit day until he saw her.

She tripped to fall into his arms.

The day was now wonderful.
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electricblue66:
It's like [oggbashan] is writing for the third puffin over there by the sixth rock, when everyone else is an emperor penguin in the Antarctic, where there's tens of thousands of the bastards.

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Old 01-29-2018, 02:45 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by oggbashan View Post
It was a shit day until he saw her.

She tripped to fall into his arms.

The day was now wonderful.
Not very romantic, Ogg…

Perhaps,

Tristan’s depressing day turns into something more promising when a redhead drops into his life.
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Old 01-29-2018, 02:54 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RubenR View Post
Not very romantic, Ogg…

Perhaps,

Tristan’s depressing day turns into something more promising when a redhead drops into his life.
The OP didn't ask for romance, Reuben. I like Ogg's post-modern, efficient and functional minimalism. Yours is sweet, but close to being an avdertisement line for a romantic comedy...

Tristan's day was as emotionally dismal as it was meteorologically. But rain wasn't all that fell, and not all that Tristan caught. The red of the accidental damsel's hair seemed a portent of a colourful sunset to end the day.

Now let's enjoy our differences, and perhaps realize, most post-modernly, that we each write our own story into and beyond any text that lies before us.
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Old 01-29-2018, 02:59 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RubenR View Post
Not very romantic, Ogg…

Perhaps,

Tristan’s depressing day turns into something more promising when a redhead drops into his life.
That's good for 15 words but we are taking the less than 100 words to extremes.

A redhead falling into his arms brightened his dark day. (10 words)

Or

Catching a falling redhead promised colour in his life. (9 words)

Or

Catching a redhead promised colour for Tristran's life. (8 words)

Anyone like to try for fewer words?
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electricblue66:
It's like [oggbashan] is writing for the third puffin over there by the sixth rock, when everyone else is an emperor penguin in the Antarctic, where there's tens of thousands of the bastards.

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Old 01-29-2018, 03:06 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by oggbashan View Post
That's good for 15 words but we are taking the less than 100 words to extremes.

A redhead falling into his arms brightened his dark day. (10 words)

Or

Catching a falling redhead promised colour in his life. (9 words)

Or

Catching a redhead promised colour for Tristran's life. (8 words)

Anyone like to try for fewer words?
It rained. She fell. He brightened. (6 words)
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Old 01-29-2018, 03:16 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tio_Narratore View Post
It rained. She fell. He brightened. (6 words)
Well done... but getting even sillier:

His arms caught hope.
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electricblue66:
It's like [oggbashan] is writing for the third puffin over there by the sixth rock, when everyone else is an emperor penguin in the Antarctic, where there's tens of thousands of the bastards.

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Old 01-29-2018, 03:25 PM   #10
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I know better than to try to hit that sort of minimalism. But, what the hell. Less than 100 words? Maybe, maybe I can manage that.

****

It was the sort of day that best suited Tristan's mood and his life; grey, cloudy, and tears splashing from the heavens. Between the divorce and his boss trying to get rid of him, Tristan often wondered just why he bothered anymore, the promises of his younger years having turned so obviously false.

Her red hair was a splash of color in the drab, grey landscape of the day, and his life, and couldn't help but catch his eye. The beauty of her face and form held his gaze despite trying to look away so as not to appear a creep.

Her eyes met his. Her heel met something else. His arms met her fall.

"Thanks," she smiled, brightening his entire world.

****

Whew. I think I strained something. And I don't think I kept it under 100. Ah, well. Back to my long winded attempts at something sort of resembling humor.
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Old 01-29-2018, 03:43 PM   #11
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Does 'Turning Red' cover it?
'Brightening Red'?
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Old 01-29-2018, 03:44 PM   #12
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If you're going to reduce the scene down to it's absolute minimalist condition then it could be re-written as "He caught her." Three words. That's it. Except that this isn't really the point of the exercise. Minimalism is good (this is I suppose the essence of the challenge) but the idea is to convey a little of the meaning and context of the original story - the elements you consider to be most critical.

Once you've responded, oggbashan, it is up to you to set the next challenge.
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Old 02-10-2018, 12:22 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by oggbashan View Post
Anyone like to try for fewer words?
Quote:
the idea is to convey a little of the meaning and context of the original story - the elements you consider to be most critical.
She tripped, he fell.
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Old 02-10-2018, 08:16 AM   #14
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I'm not going to write some new text for this exercise, but I guess anything long-winded will do.
Below I have placed a part (975 words) from the introduction of Dust in the Wind. I guess it could easily be summarized in less than 10%, and wonder if anyone could come up with an advertisement line, and which minimalistic results come up.

****************

I entered the shabby hotel lobby and looked around. There wasn't much to see, but I didn't want to leave too early and see that guy again, so I went to the desk and asked if the hotel had a bar. The woman didn't understand me, but when I said 'Coca' she gave me a tired smile and pointed to a door.

I entered a courtyard with small benches, some rusty tables and chairs, shaded by grape vines. An old woman was sitting on a small stool behind a small table; actually, it looked like a chest, several small cups on top. On the side stood a charcoal burner with a black clay pot; in the front stood another, smaller burner. Some grass was draped on the ground, sprinkled with flowers. So this must be the famous coffee ceremony. The woman spoke to me in her incomprehensible language, but I lifted my hands. "No Amharic. Sorry..."

The woman smiled and lifted a cup. "You" pointing to me, "buna?" lifting the cup, and then pretending that she was drinking.

"No problem?" I asked - there was no-one else, so I expected the coffee to be for the staff.

"You buna!" the woman said, decisive, and then indicated me to sit down. "Kuchu belu!"

I took a place close to the woman; I saw a small girl coming from behind, offering some brown powder to the woman, probably grinded coffee beans, which the old woman dropped in the black pot. "Konjo buna! Konjo, konjo buna" the old woman murmured.

The child stayed behind the woman, trying to peak at me. The girl whispered something in her ear, and the woman lifted her on her lap. "Ciao Ferengi, Ciao Ferengi!" She pushed the little one a bit, who was very, very shy, but eventually her high-pitched voice sang "Ciao Ferengi!" and she waved her little hand to me.

"Ciao!" I replied; "Hello, wat is your name?" The little one quickly hid her face in the woman's bosom. She hugged her, sang some smoothing words to her, and checked her coffee pot.

"Your child?" I asked, pointing to the little-one.

"Yene baby!" she sang back, hugging and rocking the little girl. "Yene mamush, yene fikr, yene mar!"

"What is her name?" I tried, slowly.

The girl looked up and whispered something to the woman. They seemed to deliberate, and then the girl turned to me. "My name is Tsegay, what is your name?" For a moment she seemed to turn her face away again, but she was too curious to hear my answer. The woman stroked her hair.

My name is William. How old are you."

"Wil-li-ham" I could hear her whispering to the woman, who nodded "Williham". And then the small angel said "I'm fine thank you!"

"I'm fine too."

The girl wriggled herself out of the arms of the woman and took place next to her. Then, with one hand around the neck of the woman, she sang
"Hello, hello,
Hello, hello,
Hello, how are you?

I'm fine, I'm fine,
I'm fine, I'm fine,
I'm fine, I'm fine thank you!"

Then she ran, through the door, away.

The old woman pressed her hands to heart, murmuring "Whayeh, yene mar! Whohoo, yene konjo! Oefff..."

The water in the coffee pot started boiling; some liquid splashed out of it, sizzling in the hot charcoal. She quickly took it off, and placed it on a holder, made of woven grass. "Tsegay!! Tolo bey! Tsegay!! Ney, yene fikr!"

For a long time, nothing happened, and I thought she hadn't heard it, but finally the door opened, and Tsegay returned, carrying a very small child on her back. As soon as the toddler saw me, her large, dark eyes glued to me, and vice versa. What a beauty. The woman took the child, and showed it to me. "Conjit" she said. "Conjit, Tsegay" first lifting the toddler, then nodding to the other girl.

"Conjit and Tsegay!" I said. "Are they sisters? Your children?" I pointed to the children and then to the woman.

She nodded, "Aw!.. Yene lijoj!", padding one hand on her heart. Then she said something to Tsegay, who quickly left again.

She took the coffee pot, but I feared for the toddler. I stood up, and stretched out my arms. "Can I take Conjit from you?" She returned some rapid babbling which I didn't understand, but I got the message - I picked up Conjit, and sat down, causing an emotional outburst from the woman, with patting on the heart accompanied with a continuous flow of sweet-sounding Amharic words.

Conjit, only wearing a dirty brown shirt, sat on my lap, looking at me with her large black eyes under her long, long lashes. Her hands stretched out, carefully stroking the hair on my arms, then pulling it, as if to check whether it was real or not. The woman clapped her hands, and called once more, this time I could distinguish the names Conjit and Mehret, together with the word Ferengi; the last one, I knew, was their indication for foreigners. The door swung open, and a girl walked in - she saw me, gave a scream, and quickly moved back inside, slamming the door closed.

"Mehret, Ney Mehret!" the old woman shouted, her voice forceful, decisive, but loving. "Mehret!!" The door remained closed. The woman shouted more sentences, and finally, the door opened once more. First Tsegey came in, beaming happily, followed by the older girl, who I assumed to be Mehret, turning her head, keeping her hands in front of her mouth. She might have been seventeen, maybe eighteen years old, looking... The dark, dirty and torn dress didn't hide, but emphasized the thin, long, attractive body. The black hair braided and pulled up, and the glimpse of her face told me it was angelic. Another daughter?
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Old 02-11-2018, 04:42 PM   #15
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Back to the original set,

Quote:
Tristan walked head-down, and the dark clouds overhead reflected his mood. Middle-aged, divorced and confused, he needed a break. Then, of course, the rain poured down.

He turned onto his street and found her walking toward him. Her eyes were on her phone, and rainwater dripped from her red hair onto her overcoat. Tristan would have passed unseen, but her heel caught a drain cover. He caught her as she fell forward and righted her again.

“That was lucky,” she said, and a smile lit her face. “Thank you.” Would she, Tristan wondered, bring the change he craved?
Ninety eight words, and (I think) most of the significant content.
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Old 02-11-2018, 05:33 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RubenR View Post
I'm not going to write some new text for this exercise, but I guess anything long-winded will do.
Below I have placed a part (975 words) from the introduction of Dust in the Wind. I guess it could easily be summarized in less than 10%, and wonder if anyone could come up with an advertisement line, and which minimalistic results come up.
I could shorten that, but I don't want to. I wouldn't improve it.
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Old 03-09-2018, 07:56 PM   #17
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Tristan's day in a life

It was becoming another typically wet, grey, miserable chapter in the increasingly drab, patchwork quilt of misery, that was Tristan's life. His internal struggle with the daily grind, and distant memory of the warmth and touch of a passionate, vibrant woman was adding to his increased debt at the bank of carnal joy and pleasure. He had to strike a positive frame of mind, to improve and change for the better. But how, and where?

He rounded the last corner for home, suddenly basked in the 'shepherd's delight', the vision of red upon the catwalk before him. Fate? Devine intervention? He didn't care. This was the time, the place........the one.
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Old 04-09-2018, 10:11 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by oggbashan View Post
It was a shit day until he saw her.

She tripped to fall into his arms.

The day was now wonderful.
And thus began the Rude Hemingway School.
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Old 04-09-2018, 10:12 PM   #19
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She tripped, he fell.
Damn. I am in awe.
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