Reading is a collaboration between the imagination of the writer and the imagination of the reader. Our challenge is to enable readers to create in their own minds the character and events we have imagined. If we break the illusion by faulty writing, the reader will lose conviction.
The common advice “show, don’t tell” is the key to success. The urge to explain is natural, because it is the way we communicate in conversation. In fiction, our task is to create the illusion of a first-hand experience. We have to render a scene as if it unfolds before readers’ eyes. In a novel, you must show events happening in front of the reader…. the exciting scenes, the revealing scenes, the love scenes, the violent scenes. You need the courage to imagine scenes far outside your own experience. That is the challenge and reward of writing fiction.
You need to use all the tools available, such as setting, dialogue, viewpoint, voice, stage action, plot and even word choice. How do you know what details to select? The five basic rules are: Do not describe the obvious; visualize the scene through your viewpoint character; choose details unique in time and place; appeal to the five senses; and select details that evoke emotion.
Accuracy is essential for illusion. You’ve probably never found a corpse, but if you describe the discovery of a victim with the authority of accurate sights, sounds, smells and plausible behaviour in your murder-mystery, the reader will follow along. Choose a detail you personallyh know. Don’t choose flowers to convey the ardor of Spring if you don’t know for sure what kind of flowers are blooming in that season. If you need to be specific about something outside your own experience, then you need to do research. Nothing could be easier today with all the search engines like Google, Yahoo, Ask Jeevesm Wikipedia etc.
Fiction allows us to transcend our individuality and glimpse the world through another’s eyes. We give the gift of an imagined world. The tools of this magic are prosaic elements of the craft of writing: point of view, dialogue, action, description, research. Help readers to discover your imagined world. Do your job well, and they will do the rest.
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