Sunday, September 23, 2007

The Reader's Experience

Art is a medium of communication. Every art form is a language. Each language has its possibilities and limitations.

Novelists work with words. In some ways this art form is least limited in the type of information it can convey. For example, though the visual arts (like photography, sculpture, and painting) give us access to the subject's inner person, only words can take you right into her head. Yet literature has its limitations, too. Since the advent of moving pictures this limitation has become a big disadvantage. Unless your novel really gives today's readers something more, something worth the effort of reading, they would rather watch a movie or television program.

If you flatter yourself with the notion that people who don't read books are just too unintelligent for your material, you are probably going to fail. It isn't a moral issue. People who truly appreciate art for art's sake don't think one should have to work at entertainment. So, it's perfectly natural for people to prefer entertainment they needn't make any effort to absorb, especially when it's a much more vivid and immediate experience than reading a novel.

Therefore, today, novel writing simply must make readers visualize immediate moment-to-moment action. Your stage/screen is the image-ination. It's a part of the reader's brain you must get and keep control of. By the power of suggestion, words paint pictures there. To make readers "get the picture" words must…
  • be nearly effortless to read
  • be visual
  • never disrupt the picture by calling attention to themselves.
To see how important writing this way is, consider how much a playwright or screen writer shows — instead of just having some character tell about.


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