How Lean is Lean?
By David Trottier
We are told to "write lean," but at the same time, we are urged to write dramatic and entertaining action (narrative description). Don't you have to use more than just a few words to be dramatic? But if you use too many words, you're no longer lean. What gives?
Lean writing means communicating as much as you can with as few words as you can. It's an overall or general guideline. Waxing dramatic or milking the moment is a specific guideline that applies in certain instances.
The gym is littered with food wrappers, leftover hot dogs and tacos, gym clothes, and other debris. It looks like no one has cleaned it in over a month. It is truly a mess. And the ring is smaller than the normal-sized ring.
Do you see the overwriting and the unnecessary repetition? The revision below is actually taken from the original screenplay Rocky.
The gym looks like a garbage can turned inside out.
That's lean writing. It conveys what is necessary to understand the scene in just a few words. In addition, I believe we'd have to conclude it is slightly more dramatic or entertaining than the original. It is more readable to readers.
There is a battle and Martinelli is killed.
If you are the screenwriter, what you want to understand is this: the above is a movie moment that is completely unexploited.