Less is more…is less…

If there is anything more stifling to the artistic spirit in terms of writing than the character / length limit or requirement, I would love to know.

For those more inclined to attack white space like cancer and assault it with vowels, prepositions, and sentences, the writing requirement often means condensing thoughts, slashing sentiments, and leaving things unsaid.

For those who struggle imprinting their minds on the page, the length requirement seems a harsh requirement, only reachable by the creative addition of clauses, thoughts, and oodles of prepositions that do a great job of saying nothing.

…and we’ve all, I’m sure, hit that Facebook creative brick wall that is the character limit in post replies. If you ever want to have fun, write a post about a controversial topic, then sit back and listen to the resounding groans as people ram their keyboards screeching into the spot where it doesn’t let you type anything else…

History, though, shows a funny trend when it comes to how it views length in terms of writing.

Pre-20th century, it seemed the world had firmly decided that more was indeed MORE. The Greeks, whether represented by the playwrights or Homer, certainly had no need for brevity, as their epics spanned what had to have been countless rolls of papyrus.

When Dante was told to shorten the number of rings of hell, he consequently put literary editors as a permanent fixture in the 10th ring.

Chaucer and Spencer gave literary reductionists resounding middle fingers as they went on to pen two obscenely large and overly wordy works, “The Canterbury Tales” and “The Faerie Queene”. People would go on for years to use these weighty tomes as makeshift barbells.

Shakespeare, in a paranoid fit to avoid only getting 15 minutes of fame, made sure Henry V’s speeches went on long enough to make the audience fall asleep, all so he could sift through the crowd and steal their valuables as retirement security.

Pope and Dryden battled it out in the Renaissance in what could be the most verbose pissing contests in history.

Thomas Jefferson had to be forcibly tied down, while John Hancock and John Adams hacked and slashed verbiage out of the Declaration of Independence. Historians will note his permanent rope burns and fixated look of horror on his face.

As Rachel K., the literary critic most likely to fix a good martini, once stated, Charles Dickens was paid by the word. Once he found this out, “Oliver Twist” went from a two page vignette to the monstrosity that is now barely supported by our bookshelf legs.

But alas, times change, and the 20th century brought in a new thought – Less is More.

William Faulkner in “As I Lay Dying” wrote an entire chapter that reads – “My mother is a fish.” Yes…that is the entire chapter…and yes…his mom smelled pretty bad.

F. Scott Fitzgerald, realizing he was writing THE American novel, shat his pants and his quivering hand only let him write in short, terse bits.

Hemingway, in between shots and cigars and lap dances by Havana pole dancers, didn’t write so much as he blurted notion after notion into barely coherent and connected rambles. When he woke up with a pounding hangover, he read his works, vomited, then said ‘fuck it’ and sent it off to the publisher.

Now…we stand in the modern era. Writers seem to have learned the value of less is more, but with an eye that when its good, and the thought is great, more can be more.

The fate of modern language, however, sits in the hands of a population straddling both concepts. On one side, we have those who shorten EVERYTHING…because, well, ROFLMAOLOL WTF hehehe lawls BRB AFK =/

On the other side, we have those adding MORE letters and words to EVERYTHING. Annnnnd I meannnn like eveeeeerything allllllll the times…like you know becaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaause we love love love annnnnnnnnnnnnnd all the stuuuuffffffffffff the langgguageee…

Fad? Maybe. Trend? Most definitely. Well see where this all heads. Meanwhile I am about to hit the character limi


~ by asickler on February 15, 2010.

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