Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Painting a picture

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and sometimes it takes that many to describe what the reader should see. Description is always a balancing act. How much is too much? You want the audience to perceive what you are trying to convey, but not end up drowning in detail.

I usually choose to give simple descriptions and let the reader's imagination fill in the rest. Some images are universal, and people will pretty much envision them the same. Others are ambiguous, and require a few particulars to give form and texture.

Just as in painting, when you paint with words, you must take great care in the rendering. Too many strokes and you will have an oily mess. Too few strokes and it looks like you were just testing the paints. Somewhere between is where true art lies.

In writing, it less important to give the details, but vital to give the feel. The description you give serves to immerse the reader in your world and give them a sense of its reality. But reading also is an exercise of the mind. With a few literary strokes, a picture forms in the mind's eye.

Often, it is best to let the reader see what they want. Their visions will rarely run completely counter to yours. Do not imprison them in details. Rather, give them what they need to paint a picture of their own.

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