Wanting to write ruins my read…
I don’t think I’ve honestly sat back and just enjoyed a book or short story ever since I made a conscious decision to want to be a published writer. I scrutinize and study every sentence, every paragraph, every comma, period, colon and parenthesis. When I stumble onto prose that astonishes me I rush to write it down in my notebook. I’m fully aware of plot and any possible developments that may or may not occur, so much so that I often accurately predict the outcome before I’ve read it.
There’s this gamer doing Black Ops videos on his thought process while he’s playing the game. See 2 guys. 1 left. Other right. Right guy can’t see me yet. Left guy is priority. Etcetera. That sort of thing. It’s kind of like what’s happening in my head when I read, except the thoughts in my head are not that short and precise but long and, quite possibly, over-analyzing.
““Would you like me to send in some refreshment?” Her smile was pleasant with just a hint of arrogance. She reveled in her immunity.”
And I’m like, whoa! She reveled in her immunity. How freaking powerful is that sentence? I mean, OK the word reveled by itself is a really strong word but look at how much character expose Eric jams into 3 short sentences. Look at how the previous 2 sentences lead up to the punch of the third.
“Dr. Marius pats Grandma. “You can’t rush biology.”
“His brothers changed younger than this. His little sister!”
Bet they heard that in the waiting room.”
Bet they heard that in the waiting room. Once again, one short simple sentence that says so much about the character uttering it. Then I spend the rest of the read marveling at how short and quick the structure is. How it reminds me of Howl. Then she slap shots a plot twist at me in the end. I go whoa, again.
Then there is this paragraph from Brent Weeks’ Night Angel trilogy:
“It was a place to inspire fear. Carved from black fireglass, a platform dominated the room. Nine chairs sat on the platform. A tenth chair sat above them like a throne. There was only a bare floor facing the chairs. Those the nine interviewed would stand.”
It was a place to inspire fear. Those the nine interviewed would stand. Take out those two sentences and you have nothing more than quick blase description of a room. A bland grouping of words that might not be missed if they where omitted and changed. But with those two sentences you have an ebb and flow of information, like a gentle wave that flows across the ocean and crashes down unexpectedly on your sand castle.
I especially love it when an author describes something so simply and yet so precisely the image pops into my head with ease as Dean Koontz does in his novel The Darkest Evening of the Year:
“In the salt-pale moonlight, an older middle-class neighborhood of one-story ranch houses seemed to effloresce out of the darkness.”
I’ve always felt my ability to describe surroundings in a way that does not feel stiff and contrived is a weak area of my writing. Take out the phrase seemed to effloresce out of the darkness and all you have left is a rather stiff description of some rural neighborhood. A few pages later Koontz turns up his talent for description and places his attention on a violent alchohoic:
“Carl Brockman turned his gaze on Brian. In those eyes shone not the mindless aggression of a man made stupid by drink , but instead the malevolent glee of a chained brute who had been liberated by it.”
…but instead the malevolent glee of a chained brute who had been liberated by it. How much more do we know about Carl Brockman because of this simple and elegant sentence? And here’s the kicker, Koontz doesn’t tell us this information he shows us.
Sometimes I think I could just pack up and shelve this dream of mine for good just so I could sit back, relax and truly enjoy a tale again.