Do as I say and not as I do!
My continuing series on Fridays where I share excerpts of writing that I’ve done in the past through writing prompts, random stream of consciousness, parts of larger works, or as part of my 100-200 daily word exercises.
The point being to attempt to examine what I’ve done for clarity sake and whether or not I can make sense of it…not only to those who read it but to myself as well. Or I highlight something else that I’m interested in that week and want to speak at length about. Vomiting out words if you will.
Dialogue. Still something that I can spend so much time ignoring in my own writing in lieu of providing a verbose explanation of what’s happening in the ‘scene.’ Previous writing prompts that I look back at have me wondering if I was trying to provide the script to a Discovery Channel documentary or use more words just for the sake of it.
I haven’t read anything that says that it’s wrong to add additional context to your narrative when writing. So I don’t want to come off like that. But, depending on what I need to ‘show’ in a particular situation, it should be easier to have the characters just talk about it right? This is something that’s back on my mind as I read Anathem by Neal Stephenson. It’s a pretty dense science fiction story. So much so that it provides a dictionary of terms especially used in the book. The main character and surrounding cast are highly intellectual individuals living in an almost monastic collective, separated as much as possible from regular society. They regularly debate topics like astrophysics and religious symbolism. So you can imagine the front loading of information that was presented.
I almost didn’t make it through the first 100 pages.
The author spent so much time explaining the architecture of the buildings the characters lived in, what they did on a day-to-day basis (using the fictional vocabulary created in this book), the details of the clothing worn by the avout, and other minutia that I almost became non-responsive to the book as a whole. But then that hurdle was crossed and it soon gave way to a much more open-ended narrative told from the perspective of a once devoted student, suddenly doing more questioning than blindly obeying; and that’s interesting to me. Especially once we got to hear him vocalize his opinions and converse with others. Even more so when we were given time to just be a fly on the wall to conversations had between other unaware characters.
Now with all that being said, do I think that Neal Stephenson is a bad writer? Absolutely not. But I do think that depending on the type of story that you’re trying to tell, it really matters to show the reader the reason why something matters in the narrative as opposed to explaining it for fifteen pages. Unless of course that’s the point of the story. To each their own but I could read compelling dialogue between interesting characters all day. Now let’s hope that I can one day write it.
Until next time.
*As always, the credit goes to Amanda Mason for the featured ‘Word Vomit’ image. Copyright 2014 at http://www.creativetake.net/ *