Tuesday, August 12, 2008

What is Muscular Prose?

A commenter on the CrimeSpace discussion of lean prose asked what muscular prose was. I replied:

To me, "muscular" suggests power, forcefulness. Lean prose isn't necessarily so charged. I don't think this sort of power can be achieved simply by adjectives or word choice ("arduous, hulking, strenuous, mammoth") independent of what a story is trying to achieve. Muscular prose works best in stories with a lot of dramatic moments that require powerful word choice.


Graham Powell said...

I dunno. I read once that another writer described Fredric Brown as Fredric "Brawn" because his writing was so muscular, but the uses to which he put it made it easier to overlook how strong it was.

My own general rules o' thumb are to stick to the narrative voice, never use any unnecessary words (as determined by that voice), and don't cut if the cut makes it worse.

Most of my stories tend to run lean, but some are a little wordier. Usually pastiches.

Gerald So said...

Reading up on definitions, "lean" and "muscular" can almost be used interchangeably, but they have different connotations to me. Muscular seems more obvious than lean.