Making you see it
One of the major tasks for a writer is to capture the mind of the reader right at the very beginning of the book and to keep that attention throughout, right to the very last word on the final page and even beyond, so the feeling that the story created remains embedded in the readers mind for ever.
This is what every author seeks to deliver, a memorable, unforgettable story that will be the next global blockbuster. By doing so they will win new readers who will seek out the authors other works and be eager for the next new novel to be published.
So here you are, sat at your computer, or typewriter, or poised over your desk with quill in hand ready to start writing the first words of your story….what now? You know what you want to say, but somehow everything you write seems either poor or overly complicated and neither deliver your thoughts the way you imagine them yourself.
This is where I find it best to ‘live’ the part, become the scene or character; drive that car, get shot, stabbed, or have a screaming argument with the wife, mistress, boss, or coked-up street junkie. Then use the feelings, the images that you felt and saw while ‘living’ that scene, in short ‘takes’, like each edit in a film clip, to slowly build that small part of your story.
Using this method will allow you to ‘transfer’ much more of your own visual imagery to the reader, remembering that you will only be suggesting and guiding the reader to ‘see’ what you are writing, you will never be able to transfer the precise imagery you have in your mind to another, even if that were possible it would destroy the very basic reasons for reading in the first instance.
At this point I think I should explain what I refer to as mental imagery.
A mental image is the representation in a person’s mind of the physical world outside of that person. It is an experience that, on most occasions, significantly resembles the experience of perceiving some object, event, or scene, but occurs when the relevant object, event, or scene is not actually present to the senses
Common examples of mental images include daydreaming and the mental visualization that occurs while reading a book.
According to psychologists and cognitive scientists our experiences of the world are represented in our minds as mental images. These mental images can then be associated and compared with others and can be used to synthesize completely new images.
Now that is clear, how much detail you add will depend, in part, on whether you are writing a short story or a novel, also much will depend on just how important this particular ‘scene’ is in the chapter or to the entire plot.
As an example I will take the words ‘drive that car’ from a few paragraphs above. In a short story like a flash fiction you will not have time to describe too much detail, (unless the car is the main character or a very pertinent feature). So something along this line would most probably suffice…..
‘The car came around the corner at high speed and pulled up next to me. The door opened and he called out my name’.
That short sentence creates just enough imagery for you to transfer your thoughts to the reader as a visual image. That is enough for a very short piece where the writer has to ‘edit’ the work to the length of the story.
However, unless the writer wishes to be vague in this instance, I do not believe that this sentence would be suitable when writing a full length novel where the detail is not only requisite but also allows the
writer greater scope for creativity. Therefore I would suggest that the same scene would be written along these lines……
‘The black limousine’s tyres squealed as it sped around the corner of Liberty Avenue onto Main Street and headed directly towards the fire hydrant where I was sitting. I knew it would be him, it always was. As the car lurched to a sudden stop next to me the door opened and he called to me.
‘Get in the car now, Sally’ he commanded.
Here I have added just enough detail to transfer a lot more of my own mental imagery to the reader. The reader now knows that the car is a black limo and the speed it was travelling was fast enough to make the tyres squeal. The place (setting) is urban, the street names and the use of the term ‘fire hydrant’ suggest an American city.
In this version the reader is also aware that the character on the sidewalk is female, this was not revealed in the first version.
The real skill of the writer is to know how much detail is required, to what proportion and in which instances. Many new writers either give far too much detail on irrelevant or less important items, which then detracts from the gist of the work, or not nearly enough which in turn leaves the reader at a loss as to the actual meaning, or content of the work.
The above method works well for ‘scenes’ and ‘action’ sequences. For character description I use a number of various methods to deliver my cast members to my reader’s cognitive conscience.
In my shortest works, like flash fiction, I find that it is not always necessary for any description whatsoever, I often leave the reader to create the characters physical image themselves. In short stories I give just enough detail to outline a characters physical attributes and, or their personality traits, once again leaving a good deal for the readers to create themselves.
In a piece of full length writing I tend to use one of two methods to reveal my characters, the first is what I call the ‘Biographical introduction’, something Stephen King excels at. This is where the character is brought into the story through a lengthy introduction starting at some point in the past and ending when they (the character in question) becomes part of the books main plot.
This method allows great detail to be given about any particular character so when they enter the plot the reader is already familiar with their characteristics.
The second, and the method I personally use most, because the majority of my stories are character driven, is introduction by ‘drip feed’. This is giving a little of each characters traits a little at a time through a large part, if not all of the novel.
I find this method has the effect of the reader ‘getting to know’ the person much as one would do in real life.
Of course a little of both of these methods also works quite well.
At the end of the day it is up to you, the writer and creator of your fa
ntasy world, a world where you are the puppeteer of those characters and the situations they encounter, who has the choice of how you transfer your mindful images into the heads of your readers.
I do hope however, that this rather odd rambling has stimulated you to try to write something in a format that you have not previously
done, or at the very least you enjoyed reading my drivel!!!
Enjoy your day
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