Every Line Must Earn Its Keep

Very much an extension of the concept “Every Scene Must Earn Its Keep” this truism takes the concept of efficiency down to the sentence level. Almost like the old “show don’t tell” adage, (which I’ll get into a lot in the “trust the reader” section) I like for each line or at least each paragraph to touch a little bit on all of the critical things happening in the story. 

To me a good line gives at a minimum some kind of sensory detail and an action. It might also convey some good dialogue or an emotion. We always want to stay grounded in the physical world and lines or paragraphs that don’t reconnect the reader to the character’s senses can leave us in the floating limbo of talking heads. In the other direction, when lines or paragraphs only describe, they leave us with huge blocks of word painting that get stale and bog down the pace of the piece. By trying to have a little bit of each thing – dialogue, action, sensory detail, emotional processing – we keep the reader moving through a fully immersive environment that feels intentional and relevant to the plot.

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