Shining A Light

We went to a lighting design center this week, and the main thing that we learned is that a lighting design center is a dangerous place for us to be left unsupervised. In addition to all the stuff in the showroom, they also have big, thick catalogs of amazing and weird stuff that you can hang from the walls and ceilings of your actual house and connect to the wiring therein.

There was a not insignificant chance that we would have decided to remodel our entire house (again) so we could have excuses to buy all the fun things. Perhaps it’s a good thing these items are so expensive, as that might be what brought us to our senses.

We knew what we were shopping for when we went in there: something modern and sleek for above the dinner table. We knew what the dining room looked like, and we knew we weren’t really going to redo it. Yet, all the pretty lights in other styles (craftsman, deco, neo-Victorian, space-age retro, regular retro, and vintage industrial {which, let’s be honest: that’s steampunk}) tempted us sorely. In the end, we stuck to our program if not our budget, and ordered a minor masterpiece of modern elegance that will harmonize with our home’s style.

The experience reminded Kent of something he’s heard said about font design. “Not a bunch of pretty letters; a pretty bunch of letters.” The same applies to the words those letters create.

Writing fiction is a lot like decorating a room. It’s less about how cool, or how gorgeous, any individual element might be. It’s certainly not about how many nifty things you can festoon the page with. It’s about the overall effect. You have to know when a humorous beat is needed, and when to lay off the rimshots and allow the moment to breathe. When you’re choosing a strong verb, you must choose the one that matches the flavor of the scene and the personality of the character doing it.

It’s hard to take out the stuff that doesn’t belong. When it’s good stuff, just not the right stuff to bring the room together, the killing of the darlings can feel literal. But you don’t really have to kill them. Just send them out of the room.

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