Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Writing Tip 9/100

One of the things most beginning writers don't understand is that 80% of what a reader sees in their head from a book is not actually on the pages. You hear readers say all the time how the actor or actress playing a part from a book doesn't look the way the reader saw them. That's because the writer doesn't usually give a detailed description of a character or a setting. They give just enough for the reader's brain to fill in the rest.

In a movie, it's almost all visual. You see everything, but it's much harder to show what a character is thinking. In a book, you can do the opposite. It would take hundreds of thousands of pages to describe every little detail. But we can show what's going on inside a character's head very well. The next few tips will play on this fact.

Today let's take setting. Say you want to place your character in a parking garage. You could write exactly what the parking garage looks like.

It was a five story parking garage. Each of the levels was seven feet tall and made of concrete with yellow lines painted an the oily floor. There were neon lights and the air smelled like exhaust and oil. Only about half of the spaces were full because it was a Monday and the mall was going downhill, etc.

Pretty boring.

Instead, take three things that say "parking garage" to you. They might be the smell of exhaust, the sound of tires squealing, and trash in the corners. Great. Now write the scene with just that.

Tim got out of his car, wincing at the air thick with exhaust fumes. Somewhere overhead a car's tires squealed on the oily concrete. He noticed the old newspapers and what looked like a used syringe in the corner of the garage and quickly locked his door.

That's it. Three things. The reader will fill in all the rest and you can move on with the story. Don't overwrite your setting or character descriptions.


Christopher Thurman said...

Thanks Jeff I find your tips very helpful. I hope you keep giving them because these are great! By the way, very excited for fire keep!

David Glenn said...

Very interesting. Definitely need to keep this in mind.