Wordy or Lyrical? You Decide.

When you read sentences such as:

His queasiness increased as each question added to his overwhelming anxiety.


With skin the shade of finest milk chocolate and wings of delicate bronze, her hair a waist-length tumble of brown and gold, and her eyes a hypnotic green…

Are you able to imagine these things clearly in your mind’s eye?

I am currently reading two different books. The first one is Fatal Destiny by Marie Force and the second one is Archangel’s Heart by Nalini Singh. The first one came out of a contemporary suspense novel and the second one came out of a paranormal romance novel. I ask this question of you, dear readers, because I wonder if wordiness is something you think about while reading. Let’s examine the definitions. (For the record these were taken straight from Google definition search)



Based off the definitions, which would you say fits the example quotes? Or do they fall under both definitions?

When I think of lyrical, I think of songs or poems. When I think of wordiness, I think of research papers. I understand that writers are sometimes trying to create a vivid picture in your mind about the world or the character’s feelings but do you ever feel like sometimes less is more especially in fiction novels? Wordiness works for me when describing landscapes or any setting. For example, a night sky would be “stray streaks of color bleeding into the darkness highlighting the constellations against the pale white of moonlight” (I made that up I think?) but when it comes to describing basic emotions, sometimes less is more. If someone throws an object at the wall during a conversation, I can tell they’re pissed without the author having to specifically name that emotion. In times like those, I just want to focus on the conversation. Only thing you can tell me is if one starts yelling or it gets so heated, they make out (I’m a diehard romantic).

From a reader’s perspective, I’m often viewed as being nitpicky. The point of the wordy and lyrical language is to pen our minds to interpretation; because you know we can all read the same thing but get a completely different meanings out of the content. Maybe I’m just a simpleton but when I encounter books that are too wordy or even lyrical to an overbearing degree, it just turns me off. It also doesn’t help that I tend to think if I read one authors wordy book, I’ve read them all and choose not to explore any of their other books (you big meanie! I know).

However there are  few exceptions which maybe I’ll cover in a later post. What are your thoughts on words during your reading sessions? Are these topics you cover in your reviews? Let me know in the comments below!

(P.S. If you’re interested in the books I described above, just click their covers to the right of this post for their Goodreads page —>)


10 thoughts on “Wordy or Lyrical? You Decide.

  1. Great post, Nel! In my humble (and inexperienced) opinion, I’ll second you on ‘less is more’ especially when the author is describing his/her characters’ emotions. To me, emotional elements have such a big impact on me. If I don’t get to understand characters’ emotions or if they were told in a circumlocutory way, I might be put off and DNF the book.
    That said though, when an appropriate degree of wordiness is totally fine with me – as you put it as your own example, (that is beautiful, by the way) when such wordiness is used to describe landscape or scenery, I’ll find it beautiful and lyrical. To me, the line between wordiness and lyrical is still a bit vague, but thanks to your post, I got to understand the gist of it 🙂


    1. Thanks Nor! Emotional elements have a huge impact on me as well and they really have to be portrayed in a very specific way to hold my attention. Haha, thanks for liking my example. It literally came to me on the fly. You are right. The line between lyrical and wordiness can be very vague but I think it could also be very broad as well. Thank you for such a thoughtful comment! 🙂


  2. I have a history of being a wordy writer, but I’m changing that a bit. My first drafts are often still wordy, but I trim them down, and have grown happy with the results.

    Overly lyrical writing can sometimes seem excessive in a way. In poetry, perhaps fine, but in prose not so much. I believe prose writing should reflect time in terms of observation, feeling, and emotion. Though descriptive writing adds beauty, not always, if it is too condensed.


    1. You are exactly right Cindy! You’ve summed up my post better than I actually wrote it, haha. Thank you for your amazing insight! I completely agree with you. I tend to get wordy when I’m telling a story mostly because I have a habit of going on somewhat/not related tangents.


      1. Hi Nel. Your post had an important and interesting message. It is interesting to see all kinds of writing on blogs. I really do think that what’s good for one type of writing isn’t good for others. Anyway, I know I accept more lyrical/wordy writing in some cases, but not others.


    2. I couldn’t agree more. I think that dependeding on when the book was written, like King Arthur’s legend by Pyle in the beginning of the XX century, it is OK for it to be wordy. I get the impression that fiction published in the past follows that tendency. That’s why it’s so hard for me to read the classics and the reason why I quit Pyle’s book on page 5. Less is more. Nobody needs to read the city was crowded with noblemen, clergymen and stewards in every single paragraph. We get it, already.


      1. Yes! That is a great example, Renata. Oh this comment is cracking me up. “That’s why I quite Pyle’s book on page 5.” Hahahaha. I am definitely in your court when it comes to reading historical, period fiction. 🙂


  3. Hmm really interesting post!! I love the way you broke it down between research papers and art. I’m super picky too- and it’s not even just between whether it’s wordy or not wordy, for instance my personal preference was for the second sentence, but I actually liked your made up sentence best. My reason for this is that there’s a fine line between a perfectly balanced sentence (eg Fitzgerald) and OH MY GAWD WHAT ARE YOU DOING! (any try-hard really). It’s hard to explain without getting into specifics, so I hope you don’t mind me breaking it down a little:
    “His queasiness increased as each question added to his overwhelming anxiety”- none of this is metaphorical, it’s just clunky repetitive, uninteresting info- and it looks like the author hit the thesaurus too hard- they could have just given a shorter more dramatic sentence eg “His queasiness increased” (although really rewriting it to something like: “Bile rose in his throat” would probably be better)
    “With skin the shade of finest milk chocolate and wings of delicate bronze, her hair a waist-length tumble of brown and gold, and her eyes a hypnotic green…”- a tad cliche, but the metaphoric details really create an image like you said.
    “stray streaks of color bleeding into the darkness highlighting the constellations against the pale white of moonlight”- vivid and different- yay!
    Basically a lot of it comes down to how well the writer can execute the technique. I do think there are writers who obscure the meaning too much (eg Faulkner- gahhh!!) to the point where I have to read each sentence a few times before I have any idea what they were trying to say- and that’s no good either (though of course there are exceptions to even that rule). Really the trick is if I have to think about it too much or the sentence makes me wince, it’s not good.
    Oh gosh I’m sorry for writing such a long comment- I’m such a dork!


    1. I love your dorkiness!!! I never mind if you break down anything cause you’re so good at explaining it. I 100% agree with you on all points. You are definitely right that it probably comes down to execution and some people can blend it in flawlessly to the point that you don’t even notice the words because you’re too busy being in your mind, imagining the scene and experiencing it.
      “clunky, repetitive, uninteresting” — yes! This is when simple is best for me. Just say he was ready to vomit. It doesn’t take away from my reading experience like a sentence full of wordy synonyms does. Yes, I agree! If I have to think long and hard about the scene or person you’re describing, it’s just not a good set-up.
      I’m thinking we’re gonna need an exceptions to the rule post at this rate! Hahaha


      1. hehehe thank you!! Yes exactly!!
        hahaha yes!! So true!! completely agree! hahahaa yes, it’s what always happens whenever I read a post/get into a conversation about these things- I come up with loads of ways I agree, and then loads of exceptions lol 😉


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