Craft of Writing: Let the Reader’s Imagination Do the Heavy Lifting

I rarely re-blog (in fact this is my first time), but this gem from The Daily Post contains excellent advice regarding two opposing stances: the thorough descriptive author vs. the author that prefers leaving most of the imagining up the reader. Which type of author are you?

Personally, I like well described settings and scenes, but I also know they can hinder fast-paced action. As a writer, I try to be somewhere in the middle, but if I lean toward one side, it would be the descriptive.

The Daily Post

This is the kind of flowery I can get behind. (Flowery Piano by Andreas (CC BY-SA 2.0) This is the kind of flowery we can get behind. Flowery Piano by Andreas(CC BY-SA 2.0)

In storytelling, description and detail translate what’s in your imagination into scenes and images in the reader’s mind. Can bloated description detract from your work, fill your reader’s brain with too much information, and distract them from the story? The answer is yes. In today’s post we’ll look at how to know when enough is enough.

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Going Gray?

For the last few years, I have had a single gray chest hair. I have never understood why. The blame likely goes to my oldest daughter, Alexis, who takes pride in aging her dad well beyond his years. But, who knows?

Now suddenly, as if overnight, I have four. Now, I’m not narcissistic enough to check for this sort of thing every day, so perhaps they have been there for a week or two, but today was the first time I discovered them.

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On Reading and Writing

This will be a short, somewhat random post – an update, if you will.

I’ve been making decent headway in the novel over the past two weeks. Word count is now pushing 44,000 and late last night, I finished a core scene that I have been planning since the very first concepts of this story began to materialize four years ago. I feel a sense of completion and good about how it turned out. I’m sure I will revisit it several times in future drafts, and I’m looking forward to seeing what others think of it, but for now, I’m ready to continue to blaze forward (well, as blazing as a dad of four can get).

I have also been reading a lot! In a previous post, I mentioned that I had finished the Hunger Games trilogy. Since then, I have read an interesting mix of books: The Hatchet by Gary Paulsen, The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman, and half of Matched (before I abandoned it) by Ally Condie. I’ve also started Divergent by Veronica Roth (I know, color me trendy), and The Maze Runner by James Dashner.

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First-Person Present Tense: Strengths and Weaknesses in the Hunger Games Trilogy

I recently finished reading Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy of books. I will admit that when they first came out, I avoided them, thinking they were going to be another Twilight-esque set of stories. It is a little unfair for me to criticize Twilight because I never read any of the books, but I did suffer through the first movie and that was enough for me.

On a whim, I decided to try The Hunger Games because I needed an audio book to pass the time while doing chores at home. In the end, I am very glad that I did. I found all three books to be the audio equivalent of page-turners, in particular the first two.

The most striking aspect of the books was their mostly effective use of first-person present tense through the eyes and mind of the central character, Katniss Everdeen. First-person present seems to be the current rage in fiction, especially in young adult fiction (though I would question the appropriateness of the Hunger Games for early teens). I also recently finished James Patterson’s Witch & Wizard, which also used first-person present, though to lesser success.

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A Disciplined First Draft

Like many writers, I am my own harshest critic. Because of this, my novel’s first draft has been a slow, arduous process and I’m only roughly one-third of the way through.

Since my last writing post, I have pushed my word count over 34,000, but I still get stuck analyzing every word, revisiting, revising, and not just letting the words flow. I am reading several books on writing at the moment and they all share the same message that with first drafts, you should just keep writing and not interrupt the creative process by self-editing and laboring over every single word. Unfortunately, it goes against my inner-critic nature to approach writing this way.
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