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Timing is so important, and so are the details

I waffled on this month's blog entry. I wanted to steer completely clear of elections and the economy, but it's been difficult, they're just so in your face 'there' right now.

Dragging you and I away from the real world then, let's talk about the senses and how much we need to have them in our books, but only at the correct time. When you sit and watch a movie everything is supplied for you, at least we hope so. You don't need to close your eyes to see what John the hunk looks like or Stella the big boobed beauty, he or she is right there in front of you. No imagination needed. Course, you can't touch them or smell them, but the visual is so clear the rest just seems unimportant somehow. We've grown lazy and too many of us have lost that childhood talent of creating worlds in our minds.

If you listen to an audio story, the tone of voice can mesmerize you, but you can still settle in and dream of what that well muscled biker dude looks like, imagine what he'd smell like next to you, or what his hands would feel like if he touched you. The voice of the narrator lulls you into that dream world, but you still get that thrill of creating the world, the colors and textures of it, the smell of it. In a way, this is the perfect way to take in a story. It frees you to sink into the words, effortlessly. Timing here is incredibly important.

I think a good writer has the ability to take you into that world. That's a writer's goal—to make their words invisible, to allow the reader to forget their reading and simply fall into the story. If we're good, and I mean very good, we give just enough information, at just the right time, so the story unfolds, and the information appears, exactly when and where the reader needs it. If we're too early, or too late, it takes them out of the story and that's bad. Also, if we give them too much, a laundry list of description it kills the story and the reader may very well put the book down, or flip to another website, annoyed at us for destroying a perfectly good hour of pleasure time.

Have you ever read something so beautifully written, it flows like a wave across your mind, the dialogue is amazing and that hook at the beginning just won't let go? Nice huh? Then, for whatever reason, the author shares a bit of knowledge that's just too late and worse, it's wrong. The hero who you'd decided is a Greek god, muscular, bronze fleshed and wide- chested and BLOND, turns out to be tall slender, BLACK haired and has a hairy back. It's like the radio announcer stopped reading the story and switched to something else. The reader is jarred right out of whatever was happening.

The senses have to be there, but they have to be right as well. And told/shown to you at the right time. The sultry, dark haired siren needs to show herself shortly after you find out she's entered the room, not five pages later when the red brick wall collapses onto the bed, flattening her and the hunky male, who just happens to wind up paralyzed, but able to read minds. Oops, that bit just fell in there. That's the laundry list, and you don't want that either.

Do you get what I mean?

A woman walks into a room.

Is she a redhead or brunette? Is she tall, short, fat, slim? What's she wearing? All those you can fill in, or enough of it to give your reader's imagination the right direction to travel. Also, what's in the room? You don't need to tell it all, but you do need to give something or the poor reader will fill in the blanks. If it's a bank, it gives one texture to the story, if it's a stinking barn you get something else entirely. What does it smell like, money or cow poop? LOL

And the taste of things, very important, but only when it's right, needed. When your characters are kissing, does one have minty fresh breath while the other just had a burger, with onions? I hope not, but it happens and our characters are people. How about smell? Does someone have BO 'cause they've just came home from the gym when the wife decides it's time for some hanky panky?

It's all part of good writing and filling in the picture for the reader, guiding them, showing them the picture you see in your mind. It's what we strive for and practice the craft for. And, when we hit it right, it's an amazing feeling.

What do you think?

*Jude Mason - Come, explore with me…if you dare*
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Jamie Hill said...

Money or cow poop? Are those my only choices? LOL

Great blog post, Jude. I completely understand what you mean, especially since you always prod me for those initial details!

This really hits home since the first review of Feral Heat, (the book Jude and I co-authored) was mixed- the reviewer loved the sex and the story, she just felt like we jumped into the action too fast and then went back to fill in story. I thought that was a good thing, *G* and actually checked with our editor who agreed, yes, starting with a bang is a good thing. (Pardon the pun, we literally did start with a bang...)

heh heh heh

Have a great day. Your blog is done- now go write! *Jamie slinks off to do the same*



Connie Northrop said...

My favorite author is my fav largely because I love the amount of detail in his stories. I'm a very visual person and the detail to allow me to visualize the characters and scenes is very important to my reading. The lack of detail is one of the few reasons that I can put down a book and never go back to finish it.

Kim Dare said...

I think you're absolutly right about the timing of the details being really important.

I'd prefer them not to come at all than for them to come too late. If I've built an idea of the character inside my head I'd rather be left in peace to enjoy my version than for the writer to tell me the hero looks completly different on page 105.

Lisabet Sarai said...

Wonderful and wise post, Jude. I really liked the following:

"That's a writer's goal—to make their words invisible, to allow the reader to forget their reading and simply fall into the story."

I think it's hard to get the timing right by analysis. I find that I have to let the story tell itself. With luck, the details insert themselves when necessary.

However, I just realized a few days ago that I'm 16K words into a novella, and I've hardly said a word about what my heroine looks like. In fact, I had to ask myself, how does she wear her hair? I think I need to sneak back and insert a few of those critical details LOL.