Hello, everyone. It’s time for Amber’s advice on writing that she herself has yet to master. I may not do this myself or rather not do it very well yet, but it’s still, in my opinion, something that I’ve noticed and found useful in writing.
As well as something I strive to add to my repertoire of writing skills.
So what is it this time? Allow me to explain.
Currently, I’m reading Terry Pratchett’s Unseen Academicals, a novel set in his famous Discworld. I have to admit with embarrassment that this is my first time reading anything set in this world or anything by Terry Pratchett.
There’s a reason he’s a best seller folks.
He is amazing! Or at least his writing is.
I’m kind of happy and proud of the flash story I wrote last Friday. I felt kind of smug like, I’m actually getting good at this writing thing.
But then I read some Unseen Academicals…and was smacked down to my rightly place as snot-nosed newbie.
I have a LONG way to go before I can write as smart and creative as this novel. I’m only within the first fifty pages and I’m already falling for at least one character and can admire little things that I find brilliant (metaphors and references to Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet…I think they’re references anyways, I could be making it up on my own… which has to do with the topic of this blog post).
There is something in particular about Unseen that I find very interesting.
The writer barely describes anything.
Sure he describes some things, but a whole great deal of it is left up to the reader to imagine. Take this one scene where a character left a building and is walking back home. Though it’s implied he’s walking down a street, it’s barely described at all, other than it was crowded and then he bumps into another character and the plot moves forward. But the city itself is never described in exact detail. It’s all left to the reader. The culture and the way the people behave in this world is the center of attention, while how exactly that looks like is up to our own imaginations (Another example is that football is an important factor to the story, yet the goal posts and anything else that makes up the game is described in very few details and the story never slows down to describe any of it in detail).
This is really great for me because I really suck at description. This gives me an out! I’ve started to practice this little writing tactic in my flash fiction mostly because you don’t really have many words to work with, but I also come to realize readers are probably better at me than figuring out what things look and feel like than I can with mediocre description.
It’s amazing how much you can get away with writing or rather not writing. It’s gotten to the point where I’m now considering stories where the characters physical traits are described in high detail as a bad thing. Of course, this is not always the case, but now I see heavy description as unnecessary and something that slows down the pace.
For example, I once listened to the beginning of the audio book for Steven King’s Gunslinger and was very surprised and bored out of my mind by how highly detailed the gunslinger was first described. I kept thinking, “Didn’t Steven King get the memo? This isn’t good writing!”
But then this all comes down to “what works for some writers, doesn’t work for others, and vice versa”. Rule breakers and all that. Basically, the one rule that rules over all writing rules:
There are no rules.
But I like this rule, trick, tactic, or whatever you call it, of leaving it all up to the reader.
I mean, I like reading for a reason. I love using my imagination to create the images that match the words on the page. I suppose the reason this is hard for beginners (at least for me in the beginning…and even now) is because writers probably write for the same reason too: to use our imaginations and create things. It’s difficult to let the readers share in that. It’s like sharing your favorite toy at school.
But it can also be fun too. Like sharing your favorite toy with a friend so you can play together.
Now I’m gonna challenge you fellow writers who may or may not be reading this.
I dare you to write something with hardly any specific description, yet had all that’s necessary for the reader to make up their own imagine in their heads. Whether in your current piece or something new or whatever.
Cause I said so.
Now go forth and create!