The “Delete” Key is My Friend
Imagine opening Love Story to read: What can you say about a twenty-five-year-old girl who died of leukemia and the Harvard graduate who loved her?
It’s factual, it’s descriptive…but it’s not very memorable. Erich Segal’s final version is much better: What can you say about a twenty-five -year-old girl who died?
Or, how about reading this: Call me Ishmael, a sailor who survived a sperm whale attack in the Indian Ocean.
Thankfully, Herman Melville had the good sense to instead write, “Call me Ishmael.”
The longer I write, and I’ve been working this gig for some twenty-five years now, the more I’m convinced the “delete” key is a writer’s—and a reader’s—best friend. I know, I know. It goes against everything a writer is supposed to believe. Words are good, right? Well…not always.
To me, the “delete” key is like white paint on an artist’s palette. Take a look sometime at Pablo Picasso’s first painting, called Le Picador. Granted, Picasso painted the picture of a bullfighter on horseback when he was nine years old, but the point is that he filled the canvas with color.
Yellows, browns and golds splash from one end of the canvas to the other.
Next, check out his drawing called Bullfight III. The white space around two stark figures—this time a bullfighter and a bull—immediately draws your eye to the most important elements. Picasso drew it seventy years later, when he was seventy-nine years old.
Why does it matter? Because today there are so many words fighting for our attention. We have books, newspapers, advertising…you name it, and we’re expected to read it. No one can possibly digest that much information. That’s where the white space comes in.
Recently, I was surprised when my daughter brought home The Old Man and the Sea for an English assignment. I remembered the book from high school, but I’d forgotten it runs only a hundred and twenty-seven pages. It was Hemingway’s last book, and his favorite. It was based on an essay he wrote for Esquire and he mulled it over for sixteen years before actually sitting down to write it.
More recently, I had the pleasure of reading The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah. Part of the book’s beauty lies in its simplicity. You know the words you’re reading are just the tip of an iceberg Hannah originally created. Only the best words remain, and she’s “calved” the others with her delete key.
It’s something to consider as we pick up new reading material. In a world crammed with words, sometimes it’s good to look for the white space.
Hat designer Missy DuBois opened her shop, Crowning Glory, along Louisiana’s Great River Road to cater to the sophisticated Southern bride. But bless her heart, who knew creating stylish wedding veils would lead to murder?
Hired to craft a veil for a socialite getting married at Morningside Plantation means Missy can bask in the height of antebellum atmosphere. But when the bride is found dead in a women’s bathroom, Missy the milliner finds herself entangled in one unfashionable murder. With the list of suspects thicker than the sweltering Louisiana heat, including a gaggle of bridesmaids shedding nary a tear and a family with no shortage of enemies, it seems anyone at the mansion may have done away with the bride-to-be. While Missy has Southern charm to spare, she’s going to need more than manners and a manicure to put a hat pin on this murderous affair . . .