Read Every Word?
Shouldn’t we as readers, read every word a writer writes? I think we owe it to writers to do so. Some authors seem to disagree.
I read a lot. Books (fiction and nonfiction), magazines, newspapers, links on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, email newsletters, on and on. Recently in my reading travels, I saw something that gave me pause, again. I say again because I’ve paused over this before. And that’s the notion that fiction readers skip over parts of a story. A story in a novel or short fiction. Those skipped over parts are setting or weather details or other descriptive items. Words that hold lesser importance to the plot. Pieces of information that if unread still allow the story to unfold.
The Reader’s Agreement
I find this practice odd and a thing I never, ever do. I’m a read-every-word-the-writer-wrote reader. It’s only fair to her, him, or they. It seems sacrosanct. I mean isn’t there an agreement between writer and reader that the reader will eyeball each and every word? If there isn’t, there should be. Why would a reader skip over whole sections? What if something is missed? A turn of phrase describing the clouds in the sky so extraordinary as to take one’s breath away. It’s possible.
P’shaw on the BTFAs and Their Rules!
I saw mention of this on one of those rules for writing lists that big time, famous authors like to put out. The BTFA espoused keeping setting and weather details to a bare minimum to avoid the reader skipping over those parts. I happen to admire setting and weather descriptions in fiction (and nonfiction) writing. They ground me in the story. They assist in telling the story. I like to know where in the word we are and what the weather’s like, or what something looks, sounds and smells like—a city, a town, a house, the beach or forest. I always put these details into my writing. Granted, they should be executed with a soft touch, but I do believe their presence is important.
A Favorite Example of Setting
It’s the opening sentence of Doris Lessing’s short story, “The Grandmothers”:
“On either side of a little promontory loaded with cafes and restaurants was a frisky but decorous sea, nothing like the real ocean that roared and rumbled outside the gape of enclosing bay and barrier rocks known by everyone—and it was on the charts—as Baxter’s Teeth.”
I suppose if all settings were written with this level of skill, there might be far less skipping over.
I have a friend who before he starts reading a new book, reads the ending. I get it. We’re all different. We all have our quirks and oddities. But, I’d never want to know the ending of a story before I got there. What’s the point of the voyage if one does that?
So, here’s to reading every single word a writer puts down on the published, printed page or in a digital format. At the very least, we as readers owe it to writers, don’t you think?
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Categorised in: Blog
This post was written by Charles G. Thompson