Friday, September 21, 2012

Seeing in Scene

Most of us move through the world noticing what interests us—and missing much of the rest, whether that’s architecture or botany, sports, science, and even human emotions. We develop coping strategies to compensate for everything we’re missing, and although this sometimes annoys our life partners, it mostly works fine.

This isn’t true of our novels, though. To truly enter a fictitious world, readers need a comprehensive picture of external and internal. They need the whole picture from close up to far off. They need miraculous and timely delivery of the kind of details unavailable to us in reality. What is she thinking when she smirks at him like that, and how bitter is the wind outside while, snug in the living room, the couple grits their teeth at each other?

Tip: To give your readers the whole scene, you must first see the whole scene.

This doesn’t come automatically to every novelist, or even every talented one. So complete a little homework before beginning the next scene. Make sure that you’ve imagined all the details for every aspect of the scene, perhaps especially those likeliest to escape your attention normally. Then choose the very best ones so your readers can enter that world: so they can truly see your scene.

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