Too Much Dressing on the Word Salad (Less is More)

I think I finally  get  the “less is more” exhortation. “Show, don’t tell” is easy to understand, if hard to do.  “Less is more” sounds like an effort to be content with something other than what you really want. The phrase has a hipster hollowness. It’s become cliché code for down-sizing.

But when Buck wrote the very first draft of his novel and it was replete with, shall we say, exuberant, sex scenes, the meaning of “less is more” as applied to writing began to seep into my consciousness.

It’s like the shrimp salad I ate yesterday at our favorite bistro in Pensacola. Who in her right mind would say, “Please don’t put so many shrimp on my salad?” And yet. Take a look.


Too many shrimp of dubious provenance. Too much Parmesan cheese. Too much salad dressing. Too much of everything except restraint. What I had in mind when I ordered a Caesar Salad with Shrimp was crisp romaine lettuce, several (maybe six) large Gulf shrimp artfully arranged on top, a few crunchy (not soggy) French bread croutons, and dressing with a gossamer touch.

Oh, and those sex scenes? They’ve been reduced by ninety percent and rewritten to produce perhaps a blush, a sigh, even a smile, but not a cringe. And readers will know the writer adores and respects women as full partners, not paper dolls.

Joss Stone’s thoughts on Less is More have a nice bite. Enjoy.

12 thoughts on “Too Much Dressing on the Word Salad (Less is More)

  1. Beth – seeing your post on restraint after seeing your post on Pahlaniuk has me reeling between the two extremes. Chuck does everything except restraint in his books – I’ll be curious how it sits with you. I love reading your posts about writing (both yours and Buck’s)! Keep it up!


    1. Hi Sid — Wow — so glad you dropped in and left a note. I finished Pahlaniuk’s “Damned.” Sort of. I had downloaded it onto my Kindle, and the last fifty pages or so did that quick finger flick thing we do when we get bored and want a book to end. On the plus side, his vision of Hell is wild. He’s a brilliant satirist. I’ve always suspected those poor benighted call center folks who pester people during dinner time might be doing the devil’s work. So, yes, definitely, once I got over the shock of the construct, I sat back and enjoyed the ride. For awhile. But it developed a sameness and then seemed to spiral out of control (in an actual, uncontrolled way) so that the plot — even in its fantastical universe — seemed suddenly like a kitchen sink full of dirty dishes I just wanted to walk away from. And the last sentence annoyed me so much, I almost threw my Kindle off the bed. Buck was like, “What got your dander up?”

      This is the only book I’ve read by Pahlaniuk. Is it similar to others, or completely different?


      1. Can’t say on differences/similarities. I’ve read Fight Club, Choke, and Lullaby at different points over the last 10 years or so. Usually at intervals that allow me to forget all the things I didn’t like about the last book.

        He explores interesting themes, and focuses on calling some attention to the beam in society’s eye that we often prefer to not notice. He always has one or three turns of phrase in each book that are absolute gems and stick with you forever. Unfortunately that gem was dropped in the port-a-potty’s septic tank and wading into the muck for it has only marginal value by the time you come up for air…


      2. Now that I say that, yes, I think I can answer your question – yes, they are all similar in construct and things you will/won’t like, but each one will play out quite differently.


  2. I agree. That salad is way too much of everything. Do you think the preparer had the hiccups??!!

    How did Buck take your editing suggestions? It sounds like he took you seriously and toned things down. I suspect you bring out the tiger in him and he was just passing that on to his characters. 🙂


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