I am drowning in sea of wedding photos! First there were all the pictures various people posted on facebook, and those alone could have filled an album. Then, last week, I received a disc in the mail from the wedding photographer. Two discs, actually, because the photos wouldn’t all fit onto one.
It was overwhelming. I managed to pare down the 800-plus photos to a mere 400 by getting rid of those in which someone was frowning or had his/her eyes closed or just straight-up looked weird. (I feel like the photographer should have done this tedious work for me, but oh well.) I also tried to choose the best shot from among strings of photos that were essentially the same, but sometimes I ended up keeping several because I couldn’t choose. I then shared these 400 photos with friends and family, and I’m wondering who will have the patience to look through them all. Paul didn’t, and he was the groom.
Of course, I’m going to have to do more paring down because I’m not going to print out 400 photos for the wedding album I want to make. I’ll to need to decide which photos really capture the essence of the night — who all was there and what all happened. I’ll need to choose fifty or so images that tell the story of Eva and Paul’s Wedding in the very best and most beautiful way.
Oh, hey! That’s kind of like writing!
Right now, my collection of wedding photos doesn’t tell the story in a simple or elegant way. Instead, it’s exhaustingly redundant: Here are thirty pictures of Eva and Paul at the venue in their wedding attire. Here are twenty pictures of the wedding party. Look, we cut the cake and fed it to each other — here are ten pictures to prove it. None of the pictures are bad (because I got rid of the bad ones), but still it’s too much. It’s like an overwritten manuscript that needs to be edited with a hearty use of the delete button.
Literary agent Mary Kole talks about overwriting in both her blog (see the post here) and her amazing book, Writing Irresistible Kidlit. One thing she discusses that struck a chord with me (because I’m guilty of doing it) is the habit of threes. She says”
“The writer thinks of not just one perfect image (their imagination is mightier than that!) but two or even three. Instead of opting for simplicity and choosing the one perfect image to convey what they mean, they go ahead and cram all three in.”
Her example of what not to do is pretty awesome:
“She grasped her cloak like a drowning woman grabbing a slippery lifeline. Her fingers scratched for the moth-worn fabric but it pulled apart like gossamer spiderweb. A tattered seam split down Cassandra’s side as she hugged the coat to herself, the noise like ice crumbling from a glacier, and the gape let in a stab of steel-cold night.”
“We get it!” Kole says about this example, “It’s still cold and now her jacket’s a broken mess.”
It’s sort of like if I included the following three pictures in my wedding photo album:
“I get it!” you might say. “You and Paul are on a couch looking cute.”
These are all good photos, but obviously, I don’t need all three. One will suffice. And that’s what Kole suggests in writing: “Pick one image and make it do the work.”
That often means killing your darlings — deleting that creative metaphor or that amazingly descriptive passages or that entire chapter that isn’t really important to the story but is so fun or funny or beautiful or whatever. At some point you have to get rid of stuff, not because it’s bad but because it’s not necessary and it’s cluttering up your prose. In much of writing, simplicity is king (or queen, if you prefer).
And so this is exactly what I’ll need to do when it comes time to choose pictures for the wedding album. I won’t be able to use a lot of them, even though they’re good. For each part of the wedding story — pre-ceremony, ceremony, toasts, cake, dancing, etc. I need to pick one (or a few) images and let them do all the work.