Monday, April 22, 2013

Less is More

I have a confession.

I like to act out my own scenes sometimes. (When no one is home; I definitely cannot act). I like to do this, though, because it gives me an idea of what exactly is going on in the scene. It gives me a really clear picture of what I want to happen, because usually I can only describe what's happening if I can see it first.

The problem with this is I see everything, so my first instinct is to write everything. I think, "well, I see him turn on his back and do this, so I must describe every little movement so the reader knows what's happening."


Every book would be three times as long if every writer did that. The thing is, the reader doesn't need to know what I see in my head. I give them enough words so that they can take the words and use their imagination to fill in the rest. It's amazing what you can do with a few words. It's easy, for me anyway, to think if I describe it enough, they'll see it perfectly. In fact, I think the opposite is true. You just have use the exact perfect words so that those words trigger the imagination in the way you want them to, so they see a bit of the picture you see (of course, it will never be the same picture).

And that's really hard. But whoever said writing was easy?


  1. I know what you mean. You feel like you have to describe Bob walking to the door, turning the French doorknob, pushing it open, walking through, going to the kitchen, getting a glass, opening the fridge, and pouring himself some milk. All you really need to say is, "Bob went to the kitchen and poured himself a glass of milk before settling down to plan that night's vampire hunt."

    It reminds me of directing. It's considered bad directing to give an actor what's called a "line reading." That's when you get up and say, "No, do it like this," and then do it for them and expect them to imitate you. That produces unnatural acting, because it's not what the actor would have done themselves -- they're trying to recreate what you just did. It's better to give them a direction like, "A little angrier," or "Could you hit the word 'kill' more?" and let them find the "right" way themselves.

    I know I went on a ramble, but when you said how you liked to act out your scenes -- great idea, btw! -- it instantly reminded me of that.

    1. Ooh I like the example you gave about directing. That definitely makes my point clearer haha! :)

    2. Yay! I remembered something from class. Haha. The struggle is that for a lot of people, it's REALLY tempting to give a line reading because it's quicker and easier. But you do get better results in the long run if you encourage the actor/reader/audience to figure it out on their own.


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