As a writer, we all know it’s our job to untangle words, re-invent them, and string them together to create a story. But the story started in our heads first, a lovely vision of painted scenes, heroic characters, and emotions. Much like an artist takes out his easel and paintbrush to capture the image before him, we take out our pen and paper (or our trusty Word doc) to transfer the story from our brains into paragraphs so that others may read of our brilliant inventions.
Most of the time we succeed, and it’s a glorious feeling to have someone read our work and say, “Yes, I understand completely what is going on, or what you’re saying here.” Bravo! Pat yourself on the back. That is all very well, and if you find yourself having this kind of success in your writing career, you can stop reading here.
But for us struggling few, perceptions vary between ourselves and the audience we aim to please–our readers. The story is fresh and vibrant in our minds, so real we could almost touch it, taste it. However, when we deliver it to our readers–say, our crit pals, or crit groups–questions begin to rise: Why is Character Schmuck saying that to Character Schmick? What do you mean by this line? Where are we supposed to be? Whose crummy head are we in? What’s for dinner?…oh wait, sorry, that last one was from my little boy. And we find ourselves EXPLAINING our story away.
I always say: when I have to explain something in my work, it means I didn’t do my job as a writer. The writing should explain for itself. Always. If something isn’t clear and is confusing my readers, then it means I need to look at that particular passage and consider rewriting.
Our vision may be grand and beautiful, but if we can’t properly paint it for the masses then we’re not utilizing our full potential…or at least the potential of the story. I know perception can vary from one reader to another, but the context of your novel should be coherent enough that it doesn’t stop a reader cold in the middle of the plot.
As a writer, your job is to build that bridge between your pretty vision (the one dancing in your head) and the reader’s eyes. Let it connect. Patch up plot holes. Give your characters backbone. Tighten your prose. And edit, edit, edit.
You don’t want your readers to tread on this, do you?