Monday, June 20, 2011

Get Into Their Head

I think one of the hardest parts about writing is the translation. Taking the images, thoughts, ideas in my head, and translating them to the page in an accurate, interesting way -- so that someone else can read them, and create their own images.

But sometimes, I forget that the readers don't automatically know what's in my head. When they pick up my book, they don't already know the characters or the upcoming plots. They only know what I tell them, when I tell them.

Sure, there's a lot to be said for dangling carrots, or keeping readers in suspense (not telling TOO much info right off the bat, to add a bit of mystery). But sometimes, the information we withhold can be vital. And without it, the reader will be confused.

So, how do we know what to include and what not to include? How do we know when to insert certain details and when to wait?

I think the key is stepping out of our own writers' heads, and getting into the readers' head. It's critical, at least now and then, to see the material strictly from the readers' point of view. To try and forget all that we know, all the brainstorming we've done, all the upcoming plots we're aware of, and start from scratch. To look at the novel from the beginning, just as the reader would see it.

Much easier said than done, of course. But I think it's a crucial step in the process. Otherwise, it's difficult for us to tell when/how to sprinkle certain details in certain places. However, if we start to view them through the readers' eyes, things become much clearer.


  1. I also find that it helps when I ask someone with fresh eyes to look at my work to check if my intent is coming through. Great post :-)

  2. So true, Samantha! In fact, the irony is that when I thought I got this scene "right" the other day, I let my mom read it (she's always my "fresh eyes") and she found flaws in it that I'd never considered. After a bit of re-reading and putting myself in her place, I saw what she meant and fixed the problem. Hopefully. :-)