Like all things in life, I’ve come to realize there is more than one way to
skin a cat read a book. Not that I ever…okay, yeah I have, but that’s a whole ‘nother story.
I tend to read from first page to last page. I skip description and passages of serious character introspection. Don’t shoot me, but it’s true. I think I read this way because my imagination is quite stubborn and requires very little outside direction.
Tell me there’s a garden and I immediately picture the entire thing, laid out and ready for use. If the ornamental, miniature, purple-flowering hedge bush is integral to the story, drop it in there. And nothing more. When you do this, my brain files away the item that was special enough to be mentioned.
When you fill in the garden with every single plant, every scent, every color and every texture, I’m guaranteed to skip over your words. Then if there’s something important in the midst of all that detail, I’ll miss it and won’t be happy at the end of the book when the ornamental, miniature, purple-flowering hedge bush was the source of the poison.
Why? Because, in my mind, it got lost. My attention, that is, not the bush. That was always there waiting to be used during the “ah ha” moment.
Ironically, Eldest just informed me he likes when authors fill in the voids of his imagination. “I love when everything is described so I can see what people look like and what, exactly, is happening.”
He would hate me as a writer. I don’t describe much at all. Case in point, in my YA (that I just finished editing last night, go me!) I barely describe my MC at all. She has blonde hair–unlike her parents–and her eyes are the color of the sky just before it snows. That’s it.
Pretty ambiguous. Yet, I visualize her perfectly. Likewise, none of my critters have complained that they don’t know what she looks like. Because of this, I assume they, too, have also visualized her based on her actions, emotions and carefully placed commentary along the way.
For instance, she pulls her hair back into a pony tail when she doesn’t have time to shower in chapter 2. Her hair can be anywhere from a sleek, chin-length bob to a butt-brushing cascade of curls. I never say.
Personally, I don’t care–at least until they cast her for a movie. My readers can see my MC any way they want to envision her. She can have wide, child-bearing hips or be super slim. Her skin can be pale as cream that rises to the top of the milk, mahogany brown or any shade in between. It really doesn’t matter to me.
Except the eyes and hair. Those two details come into play waaaaaay at the end of the book. Which is why I took the time to describe them.
Why do I hate long passages of inner musing? Because I like to read between the lines. I like to feel so connected to a character that I intuitively “get” them and why they do things. When I am told, again and again, what the MC is thinking, deciding or feeling, I get bored with him. He becomes less three-dimensional and morphs into a teacher.
It’s as if the author is telling me to pay attention. “Now, get ready, here comes something important.” and “Oh yeah, in case you didn’t get it the last time around, here’s what is really happening now.”
And the villainous explanation at the end, when the MC is tied to the railroad tracks with a 9mm gun pointed at her head? Those I skip on principle. If a writer didn’t show me motives and opportunities along the way, I have no interest in getting them in dialogue just to wrap up the ending.
Because of my cosmic dislikes when I read, I’m uber careful not to pen them into my own novels.
How about you? How do your reading likes and dislikes affect the way you write? Can writers become too stubborn in this mindset? If so, how?
Curious minds want to know.