“Fluff” or “Substance”?
Fluff: light, downy particles. Substance: physical matter or material.
These may be literal definitions of the fluff and substance, but they hold important connotations when it comes to writing well. Fluff is light and of little consequence. Substance holds weight. Fluff is not necessarily particular words or phrases, but can be equated to anything that doesn’t add value to your writing. Substance is everything important. In fiction, it’s the substance that drives the plot, aids character development and creates a fulfilling reading experience.
Fluff may be light particles of little consequence, but it still takes up space. In some writing, fluff takes up more space than substance, and that’s when it becomes a problem. In narration, for example, using generic description – ie, the sun was sunny, the grass was green, the wind blew – does not normally create a picture in the reader’s mind other than the one that’s already there. Everyone knows that the sun shines, grass is generally green, and wind blows. Generic descriptions like these can be considered fluff because they don’t add to the reading experience.
Another aspect of writing that can be considered fluff is excess words. Some writers have issues with wordiness. A sentence like: “It was really very kindly of him to give her such a beautiful gift” can read: “It was kind of him to give her this beautiful gift” and still make the same point. Words like “really,” “very,” and “such” are nondescript descriptors, especially when there are so many more useful adjectives.
Fiction writing is creative writing. No need to be generic or plain. Rather than using boring “fluffy” words, why not make friends with the thesaurus and the dictionary and find the right words to say exactly what you mean?
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