protesting too much

Not often you get to talk to a leading contemporary poet for a couple of hours, about your own work. I went to a one-to-one poetry Surgery with Brendan Cleary who was looking at my manuscript, and offering a critique. It was a very valuable experience. And it has been a long while since another writer has given me a detailed critique of my craft.

I came out pretty well from this masterclass, but there are things that Brendan reminded me of which are blindingly obvious when pointed out. The use of adjectives being one of these.

There is a fine line between flatness, and floridness. Calling a spade a spade, and not a worn, wooden handled rusty spade is often preferable. By over describing things we can actually limit how something is envisaged. Everyone has a picture of a spade in their heads, and by over describing it you can actually kill this ideal spade and replace it with one much less convincing.

For a commercial copywriter there is a correspondence too: when something is overpraised, you begin to wonder why. Desperately flapping about to try to make things seem more enticing can actually have exactly the opposite effect. Ultimately it’s all to do with assertiveness. Seeming too desperate to sell is a major turn off – and maintaining a sense of proportion is vital to prevent your copy collapsing into absurdity.

About Peter Kenny

I lead a double life. Identity #1. A writer of poems, plays, libretti, prose, journalism and so on. Identity #2: A marketing outlier, working with London creative agencies and my own clients as a copywriter and creative consultant.
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