Tuesday, February 26, 2013
How do you write?
I broach this subject because a friend of mine (Paul D. Brazil) posted on Facebook a recommendation for a Turner Hahn/Frank Morales book currently out called A Taste of Old Revenge (find it down in the column on the right). He said that the book is full of visual images that, if properly captured, would make for an exciting movie.
In one brief sweep of keystrokes Paul perfectly described the way I write. Using words to paint an image. Literately.
I don't know about you but I'm not a happy troglodyte when it comes to today's genre fiction. It's too . . . fracken . . . bland. There's no color. No visceral involvement pulling the reader into the action. In essence, today's writing makes for sensory deprivation for the reader. The reader is standing off in the distance with a huge telescope watching the action from a safe distance. Removed from the bleeding, the sweat stinging one's eyes, the feel of cold steel in a gun man's hand, the smell of fresh blood oozing out of a bullet hole.
I don't want to write like that. I don't want a reader to be an observer. I want the reader down in the dirt. I want him rolling in the muck and feeling the pain. I want him to taste . . . literately taste . . . fear. I want him to know how it feels to really lose someone you love. Or the narcotic burst of raw emotion when you defeat a foe superior to you in every measure possible.
Writing like this requires the application of imagination and descriptive qualities measured in just the right proportions. Too little and you're just writing like the other cookie-cutter clones that have flooded the market. Too much imagination and description and you turn off the reader's imagination.
Not good, Tonto; not good at all. The reader's imagination is very important.
On the other hand . . .
I wonder . . . often . . . if perhaps the reader's imagination is overrated. I wonder if we overestimate the reader himself. Publishers and literary agents will tell you that too much description will kill a good read and turn off the reader. Essentially I agree with that. But on the other hand, a reader picks up a book to be entertained. He doesn't necessarily want to fill in the gaps mentally. He wants to see the action unfolding before him. He wants to hear the bombs exploding. A story aptly described puts the reader right in the middle of the fight. Little imagination is required.
You don't go to a James Bond movie and just see the figure of James Bond, alone, fighting an imaginary villain with the expectation that the movie goer must mentally fill in the empty screen with the necessary details to complete the picture. Each scene of a movie is painstakingly designed visually to create an effect.
What I am saying is a book should be composed the same way.
Each chapter of a novel I write is set up visually first; plot second. Quite possibly my writing could be described as me stringing a series of visual vignettes together that, taken as a whole, makes the novel complete.
To be honest one of the two reasons I became a writer is because I am not that happy troglodyte I mentioned earlier. I'm not happy with today's writing. So I decided to write stories I want to read. (the other reason I became a writer is simple; I like to tell stories)
But here's the rub. Am I a successful writer? Are my works as plentiful and well received as hundreds of writers are today.
No. By any standard of measurement I'm just another small fish in a very big body of briny water.
But this is the way I roll, baby. And I'm thinking the market is so large, so diverse, so complex, that my way of writing would find a sufficiently large enough audience to enjoy some measure of success.
Or not . . . Who the hell knows for certain.