Who are you writing for? June 14, 2010Posted by techtigger in writing.
As so often happens, I am once again finding ways I need to improve my writing. This week, the issue is trying to find the balance between description, dialogue and action. It is all too easy, and for the writer, fun, to lavish words on elaborate descriptions of the world they’ve spent so much time building. But is that really fun for the reader?
I just finished a book this weekend, by an author I adore – however, the book in question was dreadful. I kept asking myself, how did someone so good at writing, at spinning page-turning tales of wonder, write this? It was 90% description of the setting and culture, with a few vague lines here and there to keep the characters involved. It was obvious the writer knew the subject matter, loved the history it was based on, but there was no plot, and no character development. Just lots of pretty words.
The answer hit me this morning – the author wasn’t writing for the reader, they were writing for themselves. And, I suppose it’s okay for an author to do an experimental piece now and then, but I plunked down $24 USD for a hardcover, and now I want my money back.
I am not going to get it back, but at least I did get this one take-away. I will be writing for my readers. Even if I never get published beyond my own blog, I will keep the reader in mind as I write. I do not ever want my readers to be as annoyed, and disappointed as I was with this book.
Which brings me back to my first thought, finding a balance in my writing. To work on this, I am putting together a checklist:
1: I need to have enough detail to put the reader in the scene, let them ‘see’ where things are and get a feel for the setting. I will not describe anything that does not move the plot along. No matter how ‘cool’ the description might sound when I write it.
2: I need to have the characters talk about things, rather than the author telling what happens. Endless pages of me telling you about the plot, rather than characters discovering it is BORING
3: I will not have my characters sitting around talking at each other, they will be doing things. Even if it’s just fidgeting nervously, tweaking someone’s nose, or pounding a fist into a wall. No one stands still and talks without moving
4: dialogue will reveal issues which will lead to conflict and require actions. No yapping about trivial stuff that has nothing to do with the story
5: Action sequences will have a reason for being there. This is not a ‘no-scene-unexploded’ action film. There will be action, but only if it moves the plot forward. The consequences of the action will lead to more conflicts.
Anyone else seeing a thread here? Nothing stays in a story that does not move the plot forward. I am going to be tackling my revisions with this in mind, and hopefully my readers will enjoy the results. I suppose my $24 wasn’t entirely wasted on that book. I got a valuable writing lesson out of it.
So, how do you find that balance? What things are on your revision checklist? I’d love to hear how others tackle that issue! And who do you write for, and why? Let’s chat in the comments