The aim of a truly great novel is really to get into your reader’s head. To ‘possess it’ for a while in the best possible sense. Or at least that’s my aim when I write anything.
I just love it when I can disappear into the pages of a book and lose myself for a while. People ask me, as an editor, and a writer, if I find it hard with some books to turn that off and find myself reading the book as if I’m critiquing and the short answer to that is yes — in a way. I hate it though as I think well look this is published, edited etc, so who do I think I am? But I guess it goes with the job. But then again if I can truly lose myself in a book then I see that as a measure of how great it really is.
The role of the writer is to create a world that lives in someone else’s head and what lives in one reader’s head will not be exactly the same as what lives in another’s but so long as you write it well and show what you want to show, the world you create will be pretty similar for each reader. And as I have said many times it’s so important that you connect to your readers. Or should I say — that the characters do. This is why I have such an obsession with getting voice right. For me it’s not the author the reader wants to hear but the characters and that’s why when I give readings I have to act a bit as well. (Help!)
And to effect this I truly believe the reader has to be part of the story. I have found myself working on a lot of manuscripts of late where I say SHOW it, FILM THE SCENE. What I mean is don’t tell me how a character feels or why they said something. Or even how what someone says makes them feel, SHOW it. What is so often lacking, or so it seems to me, is SUBTEXT. To complete the whole getting inside a character’s head and that total immersion I think you need, the reader has to be active not passive to the process. By this I mean they have to be watching events unfold, part of those events, rooting for the characters and trying to second-guess. It’s vital they have to work to resolve things, pick at the threads, try to work out what’s really happening in the story. If you tell them too much it becomes a much more passive process for the reader.Subtext, body language, things SHOWN allow the reader to think, to become part of solving the dilemma the novel poses and without that and too much telling, the reader becomes of a passive bystander and so the story lacks the WOW factor. This for me is why you have to SHOW and not TELL.
So, I had a busy working weekend although I did have a lovely mean in Chester with my partner in crime from Bridge House on Saturday but of course we talked writing and books! What else!
I am so looking forward to next Saturday when we have the official launch party for Wild n Free Too when I get to meet all the talented children and their families!
Tonight remember I am signing at Hintons Bookshop in Conwy and I so hope people show up! If you let me loose in a bookshop with no guests but lots of books to look at I might spend too much money!
So, best write but one final plug for the event tonight. Hope to see some of you there!