(Minimalist) Writing lessons by way of Tom Spanbauer and Gordon Lish:
You may not use thought-verbs. You have to externalize externalize everything the way an actor would, so the thought, the realization, the epiphany occurs within the reader. You can’t dictate emotion like that.
It’s about staying away from abstractions…You can’t say “he was a 6-foot tall man”…because a 6-foot tall man is somebody different to everyone who meets him. So, when your character says “he was 6-feet tall” you’re losing an incredible chance of describing—giving to the reader—how the character perceives a 6-foot tall man.
Typically, when people are talking, they don’t use abstractions. When they’re telling a story, they are using a much more intuitive way of describing things that is really linked to their experience. And that’s what you’re listening for, the way that the people describe things in, what Gordon Lish would call “burnt tongue,” this kind of inexact, awkward, ineloquent way of saying something. That says it in a new, fresh way, but also implies the emotion behind the story.
A story that’s told really beautifully and smoothly and elegantly, does not carry a lot of honesty or emotion. Doesn’t imply the kind of stress that’s behind the story.
So you’re looking for ways of kind of reinventing storytelling—and reinventing reading—so that reader’s have that fantastic excitement that you first had in first or second grade, once you figured it out and you could follow these symbols. You want to not just tell a story, you want to completely reinvent the act of reading, every. single. time.
from Chuck Palahniuk on the Tim Ferriss podcast (about the 12:28 mark)