This post originally appeared on my other blog February 12, 2011. Seeing as how lately I’ve been in the mood for lush writing, I thought this and another old post or two might interest readers…

My preference is for a lean, mean, crisp writing style–no wasted words. That is, until I find something like this:

While the dreary day faded into a drearier dusk, in a world colorless except for the blazing roses, Jack sat in the snow, oblivious of the dampness and cold, and spoke to Jenny as he had spoken to her during her years in a coma. He told her about the Guardmaster heist yesterday, about giving away all the money. As the curtain of twilight pulled down the heavier drape of night, the memorial park’s security guard began driving slowly around the grounds, warning the few late visitors that the gates would soon close. Finally Jack stood and took one last look at Jenny’s name cast in bronze letters on the headstone plaque, now illuminated by the vaguely bluish light from one of the streetlamps that lined the park’s main drive. “I’m changing, Jenny, and I’m still not sure why. It feels good, right… but also sort of strange.” What he said next surprised him: “Something big is going to happen, Jenny. I don’t know what, but something big is going to happen to me.” He suddenly sensed that his newfound guilt and subsequent peace with society were only the beginning steps of a great journey that would take him places he not yet imagined. “Something big is going to happen,” he repeated, “and I sure wish you were here with me, Jenny.”

Strangers, by Dean Koontz, © 1986

In the afterword in this edition/reprint of this novel, Koontz tells how he wrote Strangers entirely on speculation. It was a leap of faith, no guarantees it would ever sell, but he felt compelled to do it his way. After receiving his largest advance ever, he was offered a six-figure bonus if he’d cut the 960 page behemoth (about 240,000 words) by 30%. He refused. Published anyway, it went on to become a mega-bestseller.

This isn’t one of my fave Koontz novels. His more recent novels are leaner, more tightly written, and certainly easier to prop up on my chest when I’m reading in bed. Still… dense, lush, even bordering on overblown writing works sometimes. It certainly worked in this novel and even my manic inner-editor would have a hard time figuring where and what to cut. If that’s what a writer has to do, then that’s what he has to do.



2 responses

  1. I feel the same about GRRM. Every complains that he lingers to much on a scene, but that’s why I love his writing and his stories. Here’s something from the prologue of his latest:

    “Outside, the night was white as death; pale thin clouds danced attendance on a silver moon, while a thousand stars watched coldly.”

    Not as dense of the passage in your post, but then I’m only giving you one sentence. He goes on about the snow and how cold it is, which, for me, made me shudder with a chill as I read.

    1. I get in moods when I want to be buried in a story and only lush, dense writing will do that. It takes real skill and a lot of control to be able to pull off lush writing that doesn’t descend into purple prose. I admire any writer who can pull it off.

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