Dear Writer Revisited: Letter Sixteen

Pepper and Salt

We've gone from writing and life philosophy back into the territory of writing style and creation.  Good.  About time too, all that heavy stuff was beginning to make me feel deep and moody.  A little strange for a book on writing, although no one said a collection of letters had to have a thematic structure.

In this letter, Virginia talks about understatement and overstatement in writing.  Specifically, she makes this letter a love letter to the understatement.

Understatement is powerful because it stimulates the reader's imagination, causing them to become emotionally invested in your story.  It requires them to put in more work than overstatement, and therefore lends itself more to literary genres than say romance or popular fiction (both of which favour the overstatement.)  Overstatements also tend to be heavy with slopping adjective and adverb use.

This chapter is a bizarre and confusing one:  it goes from this rather misplaced point to talking about showing your work to people, establishing a general rule that one should never show their work to family or friends.  An excellent point, but it begs the question of what exactly the one point has to do with the other?  I see this point as having more relevance in chapter fifteen.  However, as I said in the beginning of this blog post, no one said letters needed thematic structure.