Madeleine Robins August 3rd, 2007
This morning’s while-I-was-thinking-of-something-else revelation: reading is a collaborative experience. Writing is done in the expectation of this collaboration, which is one of the things that makes it difficult (aside from the invention, the research, the craft). Movies are prescriptive: they show you what they mean. The best movies, in my humble, leave a little bit to our imagination, don’t spell everything out, make you work. The best books do too, but even there, you are using the author’s words to create a movie in your head. It’s a collaboration. That means the writer has to be careful not to put up blocks to collaboration; the writer has to allow the reader some leeway for her own imagination.
I’ve been thinking about this because I’m mid-way through a really interesting book, but keep stumbling over the details. Many of the details are delightful, but sometimes there’s just too many of them. It’s not worldbuilding, or at least not otherworld-building; the book takes place in the present, in our world. But I’m told every garment every character is wearing, and their fabric composition; I’m told about every tic and shiver, to the point that I can’t tell which of these tics and shivers are meaningful in terms of character reaction and which are just there. If I were workshopping this book, I’d tell the author that he’s so caught up in the movie in his head that he’s not leaving space for me to make that movie my own.
ETA: I appear to have posted this before I was actually done composing. My bad.