Cheap Fixes—And Tiresome Writing

by AR Simmons

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Posted by ARSimmons

The art of writing is actually attempted communication between alien worlds. Let me explain. No two people have the exact same mental “picture” for a word, much less a whole sentence. We are pattern finding beings. It’s what we do. We find sense in sensation. We connect the dots. We evaluate the now in the light of our past experiences. As writers, we must know that the reader will interpret our words and descriptions not by our conceptions, but by his.

Now there are two ways a fiction writer can go about his job. He can be very detailed in his descriptions in order to leave his reader no room for interpretation. Or he can paint using broader brush strokes, merely suggesting the details in a way that encourages the reader to produce his own picture (a sort of a Gestalt). I believe that the most effective way to engage the reader is to leave the fine details up to him. If a horrific crime must be described, it is more personal and vivid if the reader uses his own experience to immerse himself in the scene.

For this reason, I forgo graphic descriptions of violence and explicit sex scenes. Leaving hints of unspeakable horror and unfathomable rapture allows the reader to tap into his own nightmare demons and intimate fantasies. That is when the communication we seek occurs. Without it, the writer can only slap together sickening mayhem, cheapened eroticism, and unimaginative profanities to produce something that very quickly becomes tiresome and not at all engaging.

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