19 February 2007

When the Writing Gets in the Way

I appreciate that not everyone writes to be read. Writers who say they write for themselves may or may not mean that the writer does not care about the reader, but that the reader does not dictate the story, the writer does.

For writers who want to be read by the mainstream reading public (whoever that is), don't let words get in the way of meaning.

A writer recounts an exciting, well-thought out Dramatic Action plotline (he has entirely ignored the Character Development plotline for now and whatever deeper meaning the story has is yet untapped). I do not read the words. I listen for the structure and plot. I have no idea of the writer's writing, not even the story's true point-of-view. Today, during the story recounting, the writer's words got in the way of a truly exciting Climax.

Too florid, they clouded comprehension. Granted, he was reading summaries of scenes, but still, his "voice" seemed stilted and the words themselves demanded individual attention.

The actual Dramatic Action propels my mind to the next exciting moment. Skipping over complex details, I wait impatiently for the next scene. His tongue trips over the words. In the end, I am left wondering, huh?

I knew the writer knew; I had learned to trust him partway through The Middle. But besides rich and poetic words, he sprinkled his story with complext names. Without any Character Emotional Develpment with which to fix the characters by name, I had little to ground me. At the Climax, I found I had no idea of the villian slayed. The crowning glory of the story left in confusion.

Moral of the story with your reader in mind:
1.) Strive for meaning on the word, scene, and overall story level. Write the scenes moment-by-moment as clearly as possible as an invitation to the reader to sink deeper.
2.) Develop the character's inner world as carefully as the outer one.
3.) Help the reader remember who goes with which name.