Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Maybe I Should be a Director Instead....

When I read a book, I don't just read it. I visualize it. I pay attention to every little detail, whether the author mentions it or not. I imagine the slight change in a characters voice while they're talking, the tilt of their head, how they stand, walk, what they do with they're hands. I map out (most) of the buildings that they go to beforehand. If the book says the MC walked into a friends room, I stop right there and then imagine their room with every detail down to the color of their pillows. Basically, I'm crazy.

And I noticed that I do it in my writing too.

When I write, I try to make sure that the reader "sees" things exactly like I do. I write down every little detail to make sure that they interpret the story the same way that I do.

And this makes for bad writing.

I saw that I used WAY too many adverbs ( I know, and I called myself a writer), and described things so much that it slowed down the pace of things. MY WRITING SUCKED. And when I realized this, I had another (slightly painful) realization too:

IT'S NOT OUR JOB TO MAKE SURE THE READER SEES THE EXACT SAME THING WE DO. We don't need to constantly write down the little details of how this person did this, and the color of that guys shoes. ( Unless, of course, its important). Okay, so maybe I never got that extreme ( shoe color), but I definitely used way too many details ( aka: adverbs). This was largely because I'm a perfectionist ( And no, its not OCD, no matter what my friends tell you) and I like things done MY way. And to realize that I shouldn't even try to have it "my way" with my book felt.... weird.

And why should we not " have it our way"? Because: PEOPLE WILL ALWAYS READ A BOOK DIFFERENTLY. We all interpret and imagine things differently than the person next to us (or than the author) AND THATS OKAY. Because we as readers will take care of the little details, and when the author robs us of this opportunity, it kinda takes the fun out of reading.

In my favorite book, Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy, by Ally Carter, there's a scene where two people went on a study date. But she didn't actually write about how the MC sat, or when she pulled out her text book, or if she put her elbows on the table, etc. She left that for us to imagine. She DID write about how the date sat pushed his chair back onto the back two legs, and how when he was asked a question, he raised his eyes, but not his head. She gave the IMPORTANT LITTLE details, but not the INSIGNIFICANT ONES.

Don't get me wrong, I love it when there are details that bring the story to life. But don't over do it ( like I was). So when you sit down to write, don't be afraid to take out some of the small (and insignificant) details that most readers will just add in anyway. Too much detail can bog down writing and slow the pace of things, which, well, is obviously not a good thing. Of course, I'm not saying get rid of ALL small details, because they can be important to writing.

Im just saying ( for about the third time now) to get rid of the INSIGNIFICANT ones.

So what do you think? Do you also think that too much detail can be a bad thing, and would you mind, as an author, if readers didn't interpret things the same way you do? Also, when your reading, do you take time to visualize everything to extreme detail, or do you just imagine what's written on the page? Answer below!


  1. This is a genius post. I absolutely don't care when a reader imagines something else, particularly with visuals. I'd rather they understand who my characters ARE than be constantly reminded of their hair color.

    Usually I don't imagine in extreme detail. It's weird. I sort of have to be told. I visualize books like dreams. I only really see the important things, and if you asked me what was in my peripheral vision? I wouldn't be able to tell you.

    Harry Potter was an exception to that rule. For some reason it was really easy to see in my head. I could tell you the color of the Dursley's carpet.

    Pink, by the way. Rose pink.

  2. So true! (about who our characters are). In the book Heist Society, the author Ally Carter ( that name sound familiar yet?) purposely left the description of her main male character vague, only saying he was tall and "golden" ( tan and had light brown hair) and had broad shoulders. She did this so that people could imagine him how we wanted to, and because she thought the same thing you do. That his actual character was more important than his appearance.

    And as for the Dursley's carpet, I always imagined it like a dark green color.

  3. I don't know how I missed this post, but I'm glad I read it! As Christine could tell you, I get super caught up in the color of my character's hair. I don't know why...maybe because I've always wanted cooler hair myself.

    Anyway, I'm going to be more mindful in the future of cutting out insignificant details (an excellent way to put it, by the way) and not stressing if people don't interpret the rest the same as me.

    As for the Dursley's carpet...I don't know. Fail.