Today I thought I’d talk a bit about how we as writers use our words to control what the reader sees. Seems pretty straightforward, right? Of course our words control what the reader experiences! We’re the WRITER!
Ah, but sometimes books go askew when the writer forgets that whatever they focus on will be focused on by the reader as well.
For example—think of your book as being told through a camera. You aim it at your protagonist coming home-- he fixes dinner, he sits down to watch TV, then he finds an alien space slug behind his sofa. You’ve aimed the camera to show all of that.
Now imagine all of that, but you wander off and start aiming the camera at the dog. The dog isn’t doing anything, and has become friends with the vicious alien space slug so he’s not even reacting to it.
But your camera loves that dog. Maybe he’s a text representation of your own dog. And you are really good at describing that dog. Meanwhile the reader is thinking, “OH! The writer has the camera aimed at the dog—something must happen with the dog!”
Then nothing happens with the dog.
It’s that gun sitting on the shelf in chapter one, that never got used.
If you as the writer focus the camera on something—especially if you give it lots of detail—we as the reader will be looking for that thing, item, event, to be important later on.
For myself as a reader, if an author screws this up this once, I’m ready to walk away from the book. They do it twice and that book is air born in a trajectory meant to land in a “give away” book pile. To me that author has broken the sacred rule- they made me focus on something with no meaning to the story.
This can happen for a few reasons, but mostly it boils down to forgetting and falling in love.
1) Forgetting: this is when the author really meant to do something with the dog—but then forgot the bit or edited it out. That’s well and good, except that the author forgot to take ALL of the bits of intense focus of the dog out. This doesn’t mean we can’t see the dog, just that it shouldn’t be an intense detailed focus. ‘There is a dog’ verses ‘a full, elaborate description’ of said dog.
2) Falling in love: not the characters- but the writer. Sometimes we do too much research on something. We have all of this information to describe it- say it’s a Victorian fire poker. So we put all of that loving detail, how it was used, what it’s made of, how it shines in the firelight into our book. Then don’t ever show it again. The writer may love their words so much that they feel the reader should as well. Guess what, the reader ain’t gonna care. If that poker isn’t important- we don’t need the detail. Not every bit of researched information needs to go in the book. TRUST ME.
So make sure you are focusing on things the reader needs to know to enjoy your story- nothing more, nothing less.
OH! And next week there will be PRIZES!! Next week will be my 200th Blog Post- wooo hoooo! Come on by and have some virtual cake and ice cream.
(And if you’re wondering about the glass rocking chair in the title of this blog- then I’ve just demonstrated my point. ;))