Discussion about the various aspects of the writing craft.

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Postby ElaineB » 19 Nov 2012, 00:28

I've seen this essay linked to a couple of times now, so it must be worth posting here.


[M]y novels have sold to the movies not because they were written for the movies, but simply because they contain elements of vivid image that appeal to those who make films -- to those for whom it is often more important to see than it is to think.

He goes on to include a paragraph from 'Salem's Lot about a "spooky old house."
Nowhere in the paragraph does it say the house being described is "spooky"; the closest I come is the use of the word "sinister" to describe the boarded-up windows. If I've succeeded, readers will not need me to apply the adjective "spooky"; they will come to that decision on their own.

The important point (emphasis mine):
What sort of a walk leads up to this house? Any? How many stories does it have? What style is it -- Jacobean? Victorian? Is there a driveway? A garage? A weather vane on the roof? None of these details is here; that is what the reader brings to it.

[I]magery does not occur on the writer's page; it occurs in the reader's mind. To describe everything is to supply a photograph in words; to indicate the points which seem the most vivid and important to you, the writer, is to allow the reader to flesh out your sketch into a portrait.

I struggle with how much detail to give, how much to describe: a person, a place, an event. Good stuff here.
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Re: Imagery

Postby Baker » 19 Nov 2012, 06:28

[I]magery does not occur on the writer's page; it occurs in the reader's mind.


From my years of critiquing, one of the points I noticed was there is a transformation a writer has to make: it's when they stop writing for themselves and start writing for a reader. At first, people seem to write to capture a great story, idea, character they have in their head. Well and good. But if you want to make your writing effective for a reader, your mindset--and writing--has to change. Partly, this involves a shift in psychology: you have to begin to give over control of your story to someone you have never met and may never know. By which I mean what King is saying: the story takes shape in your reader's head, not on the page/screen. So, your emphasis has to shift from faithfully capturing every detail in your head, to trying to find the words and phrases that will cue your reader's imagination into recreating that--or better. (The or better is what your reader adds herself.) It can be a traumatic separation to realise you no longer have total control of your creation, and that you must trust your readers. Some writers never make the leap: they want to keep total control.
Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities ~ Voltaire
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Re: Imagery

Postby Andain » 22 Nov 2012, 11:32

Good stuff! I'm internally kind of trying to make that transition, but it's hard for me. I think I sometimes go overboard with description, other times I go overboard with silly metaphors, etc. that I understand, but other people... won't. When my editor was going over Captive, one of the most common things I found myself changing were the goofy metaphors. >.> They had meaning to me, in my own head, but not necessarily for the reader. Some of them I was able to clarify a little more, describe a little better, and still leave in, which made me happy. :-)
Captive by the Fog - My debut novel, now available from Musa Publishing.
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