I wrote something (original) and then I wrote two new versions. The first version was as elaborate and excessive as I could make it, and the other as distilled and bare as possible.
Original Version (telling it straight, nothing fancy, nothing to see here, move on):
There’s a guy I know that walks around town looking at all the girls. He looks for smooth skin. His eyes slip down and he admires their chests and, if there are time and opportunity, his eyes slide further down into their panties. Forget that they have winter layers; his eyes undress and caress. Then, for good measure, he swivels his neck and admires their asses as they passes.
He thinks himself quite the lothario living in the privacy of his own mind. He imagines the light to be free as it bounces off the bodies of those ladies and into his own eyes and mind. As for the gents? Let that light from those creatures escape back into the world and be lost.
Who is this man? Is he a youngster himself who wants to attract the eye of someone of his own age so that he can promise them the world? Is he a man of means who can provide love and land to his promised one? Is he perhaps a slightly older man who has seen enough of the world to be ready to settle? Or is he (and, in truth, this is he) a man coming to sixty (six-zero) who never went past sixteen (one-six) in his head!
I told him today that he needs to re-categorise the people he sees as he walks through his life. Little girls from play-mates to grand-daughterly. Old guys from grand-fatherly to peers and friends. Old women from grand-motherly to friends and peers. Young women from sex-objects to daughterly. Young men from rivals to son-like. Little boys from rough play-mates to grandson-like. And, most importantly, himself from teenager to grand-fatherly.
In this way, he can live his life whilst treating those around him appropriately. We go through changes and stages in life. It’s just not seemly to get stuck.
Elaborate and Excessive Version (flowering up the rhythm and syntax of the prose, maxing out on the types and amount of imagery, sweetly singing poetic techniques like alliteration and assonance):
Ah, see them come his way. Breaking his heart with their eyes and flattering, fluttering lashes. Is that a jiggle he sees inside that tantalisingly tight top? A sway in the step of that sweetly smiling lovely who swings her hips to the left and the right like she counting out the seconds till he sweeps her off her feet into his charms and arms. He sighs and never-say-dies when he turns to strip her skirt and socks away. Who’s to say she’ll say nay? What a sight this is, he sighs inside.
He’s quite the lothario living in the gutters of his mind-your-own mind. Light swoops down from the sun and falls into the curves and caresses of heavenly bodies on earth and then bounces out into his eyes and mind. He’s as lost in love as any can be out in the world. Love what you love and hang the rest, he says; today’s my day to drink deep.
But who is this buck (I hear you cry) tell me more of him! A teen with smooth skin that’s never felt the rasp of a razor’s edge? A twenty-something-or-other with cash to flash and a flash car to boot? A man who has fought dragons in far off realms and has returned to find his princess-next-door? Or if not, then who? Surely naught but young and fair with flashing smile and shining hair. What? This?! Wrinkled. Grey. Saggy. Get away!!
No, no, surely no. This is a mismatch; discordant disharmony. Stretch five into six and you’ll never find a sum that’s more wrong. And I told him so. Little girls do not playmates make. See older gents as your peers, not your elders. All the elders are your friends. Teach young men, rather than fight with them. And most importantly of all, look on those young women as you would a daughter; not as an object of your fevered lust. You’re a man, not a boy. Be a man.
One day I’ll watch him walk with face and features forward; focused and brave. And I’ll see his face, and I’ll read between the lines; the oh-so-many lines. And what will I see? Yes; a contented smile. Here’s hoping for a future fair.
Minimalist Version (distilled and bare):
Check that guy leching, dude!
There, that old bloke, checking out the jail-bait. Pshaw, man, that’s low.
He overhears and shrugs it off. Winds his head back into his neck. Says never again. Til ten seconds later. Another one. And another. And again. Like a sick obsession.
He listens to the voices inside his head, whispering justifications. They’re asking for it. They dressed like this for the attention. They want the reassurance that they look good. There’s no harm in looking. There are worse things. The light is free to catch. Bouncing around. Bouncing like …
Stop! That girl’s young enough to be a daughter. A granddaughter. A child in all but body. You’re not a teenager anymore. Grow up. Just stop for crying out loud!
So he stops.
And starts to fall apart.
And dies a little more today.
And more again tomorrow.
And the days grow dark.
And stuff shuts down.
And life drains.
And then …
- How do the pieces compare?
The first felt natural to write. The second was harder, partly because I was going over the same ground and partly because it’s not my natural style to be profuse and fancy (even though it’s fun). The third piece was a lot easier to write because it was shorter and because it’s closer to my style to be terse.
- Did any possibilities arise in one that weren’t available to you in the other?
In the fancier piece, I felt like the first section, describing the eye-candy, benefited from a more ornate style because of the nature of the thing being described. The last piece was more able to show appropriate disgust at the action of the old man. The first piece would benefit from additions from the second and third styles.
- How does each style shift the meaning and/or emphasis of the piece?
The flowery piece made it seem as if the narrator was condoning the actions and thoughts of the lecher. The minimalist piece was easier to use to convey a measure of disagreement with the sex-pest.
- What elements would you take from either and re-use?
It’s clear to me now how elements of both styles can be taken and used to send a message to the reader about the narrator’s intentions. Such a powerful tool and a valuable lesson.