Sunday, November 04, 2007

Writing Lessons About Potential Readers

My wife and I rented the movie Next last night. It is very good by the way, especially if you're a fan of Nicolas Cage. What struck me as interesting was the way we tend to watch movies. I sit down and remove all distractions. I watch the opening credits and let myself get into the feeling and the flow of the movie. I pay attention in order to soak in everything that the film maker was trying to present. My wife, on the other hand, messes about with some mail on the coffee table, clicks over to a couple of things on her laptop, gets up and walks into the kitchen for something to drink, you know, does everything except pay attention. This has been standard procedure for almost twenty years now.

It struck me that there are people who read like this as well. While some will read with careful attention to your words, others will traipse through your prose like an unmedicated bipolar patient. Long, complicated sentences that are designed to evoke emotions from the depths of one's soul are probably lost on them. (My wife, however, is still more emotionally attuned than I am, so maybe this lesson just falls flat in her regard.) I suppose the thing to remember is that what you set up in Chapter 1 may have been glossed over and forgotten by the time we get to Chapter 10 so don't assume that your readers are following you. I'd advise sticking in a reminder or two along the way. Kind of like stopping the movie after an hour and saying, "No, he only sees two minutes into his own future."


Cherie said...

Yes, I can walk AND chew gum. At the same time even. I'm the mother of your four children, I've learned to multitask. Who said, "Yeah, I know he only sees ahead two minutes," when you went back to make sure I got it? Geez, it's an action movie after all (i.e. must make sense to the lowest common denominator), it's not like it wasn't repeated over two dozen bloody times in some fashion or another.

Scriptorius Rex said...

All right, all right, so I took a few liberties with the exact nature of the events in order to illustrate a larger point. You should be used to that by now.