Tuesday, April 21, 2009

How do I love thee? Let ME count the ways.

don't tell the reader what the reader already knows--a needless repetition of dramatic events already seen; repetition of dialogue exchanges; belaboring motivation, character flaws, and implications.

At some point in the equation, the reader has to be let beyond the red rope barrier to the entrance to the story, allowed to find a preferred seat, and participate in the story being told, in other words, allowed to infer. This comes at a price to the writer, who is likely to have been stung in other dramatic venues by readers who completely misinterpret, then go forth to make erroneous assumptions about the motivations of the characters and the intent of the author. Writers are enough control freaks as it is to take this challenge lightly, but the fact is that writers who over manage to make absolutely sure the reader "gets" his intention is in fact dumbing the story down and not taking necessary risks.

Hint: Always risk the possibility that the reader will understand. Information exchanged between two or more characters in dialogue may be summed up tersely in narrative later on. Example, "He told her the details of his conversation with Fred and Willie. She had no questions, seemingly understanding why he'd acted as he had."

Similarly, don't remind the reader with stage directions that Fred had a furious temper and was likely to fly into murderous rages. Let the reader see theme, intent, and dramatic inevitability the way, for instance, John Steinbeck did in his depiction of the character Lennie in Of Mice and Men, reminding us through incident of Lennie's unintentional potential for inflicting painful consequences on the very things he found attractive and comforting.

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