Thursday, 24 June 2010

Those Freddy Krueger Hands...

You're going to think I'm obsessed with this scene, but I suddenly thought of something else it was an example of....

'Hello Mary,' Janice said, flicking her hair back over her shoulders.
Mary gave a brief smile. 'Hi.' She was dressed as Snow White, right down the the sparkly slippers on her feet. They twinkled as she walked over to the drinks table. 'Damn. They've got no cider.'
'Cider?' Janice echoed, pulling a face. She ran her Freddy Krueger hands over the bottle tops. 'Who on earth would be drinking cider at a party like this?'
'Me,' Mary said, pushing the black wig away from her unnaturally pale face. 'I need to get drunk fast.'

...which was withholding information for the reader to work out for themselves - in this case, that Mary and Janice are at a fancy dress party. It's really important a writer does this because unless the reader has to do some of the work, they won't engage, and if they don't engage, they won't read on.

Has anyone ever given you a long and complicated description of what you've got to do without letting you have a go at doing it? It's like watching TV chefs take you through a recipe: the second the show is over you can't remember how to make the stupid cake or whatever it was. You were passive when the information was given to you, so it's in through one ear and out through the other.

Same with reading. If the reader is passive, if it's all plonked down in front of them, they don't have to do any work and they won't engage. So there has to be an element of action, stuff they have to work out. The detective story or thriller is gripping because the whole thing is a form of puzzle, and even better, it's against the clock because the reader is competing with the writer seeing if they can work out the answer before it's given to them.

But the writer can do it on a small scale too. Chuck in a pair of Freddy Krueger hands and see how long it takes before they work out it's fancy dress.

Fancy a holiday in France with me? I'm teaching a week long course on Writing Mainstream Fiction at a fab chateau in the South of France in September. More details? Contact Chateau Ventenac.

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