Writing as Telepathy

I’ve recently finished reading Stephen King’s aptly-titled memoir, On Writing. As one would expect, Mr. King had some very interesting things to say on the subject.

Namely, that it’s magic.

If I hadn’t already returned the book to the library I’d quote it to you from the King himself, verbatim, but let me see if I can’t push up my sleeves and make a little magic of my own.

OH WAIT, I THINK I JUST DID.

You’re saying, “What? What just happened? Julie, I don’t understand!” Well, let me ask you this: did you not just envision the rolling up of sleeves? Hands clapping together, perhaps, and rubbing in anticipation?

(I certainly feel like a magician. “Is this your image?”)

Let’s try again. I’ll explain better and give a more thorough example this time.

When I was little I always wore something with a tutu for Halloween. One year I was a ballerina, the next a princess, and after that a fairy. The lace-up slippers came and went, as did the (plastic) jewel-studded crown and the wand, but integral to my costume each and every year was my bubblegum pink, mesh, flamboyant tutu.

Now. The tutu you are seeing might have several layers of frills; it might be stiff or fall silken like tulip petals; it could be sewn with pearl-colored sequins, or tied off with a great big bow.

But the fact remains that you are seeing a tutu.

Or if you weren’t, you are now.

This is a tutu that I envisioned in my head. I captured the images conjured in my mind and relayed them with words like “bubblegum pink” and “flamboyant”; with “frills,” “tulip petals,” and “tied off with a bow.” In writing, I emitted a magic signal. In writing, I sent those images to you.

Boom. Telepathy.

But when you think about it, it’s even better than telepathy. Telepathy is short-lived. With writing, hundreds of years from now (okay, let’s pretend for a moment people will still be interested in my blog, or that “blogging” will even exist) someone might read those very words and see the same image I projected; a figment originally dreamed up in my mind.

Magical, isn’t it.

Give it a go, if you’re up for it…send us an image by word!

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14 thoughts on “Writing as Telepathy

  1. You indeed are a magician! Not only because you managed to bring the image alive for your writer, but you also because you explained so well the magic of writing … a painter paints an image, a sculptor sculptors it, and so we see it the way they saw it, or wanted us to see it … but a writer describes an image so every reader see its own version … without a picture of a little girl in a tutu every one of us reading your lines would see their own version of it, and no version would be the same!
    Kind Regards,
    Daniela

  2. ON WRITING is such a wonderful book. Go buy yourself a copy! I’ve read it many times already, and now, thanks to you, I’ll pick it up again!

  3. This interestingly spins into an idea I’ve held for a long time with writing. Many authors, especially new ones, and actually Stephen King does it a lot, will provide an excess amount of description in their works.

    What is an excess amount? Well… If I tell you there is a wooden door in front of you right now. The particular wooden door that you would imagine could be anything, maybe it is made of pine, or it is white washed, or maybe it is painted over. Does it have indentations in it that are square-like? Or maybe the door is banged or bruised or paint is chipping? Did you see a doorknob on the door (Chances are you kind of did).

    The point is, I only told you there was a wooden door. Nothing else. You placed in the details, based solely upon your experiences with a wooden door. If I go on to say it is “A wooden door made of white-washed oak with brass hinges and a brass doorknob that is looking like rust is starting to get to it and has paint and wood chips at the base of it from aging over the years.” I have included beyond the level of detail or description that is truly needed to depict an image in your mind. In fact, chances are I gave you such detail that you actually had to sit there for a moment and draw all the different images together to make the door I am trying to mention.

    This slows down your process of imagination. All I had to say was it was a wooden door, and you automatically understood. The only time this should have changed to something more than ‘a wooden door’ is if it has a very specific purpose. Such as: “Upon the wooden door was a brass handle looking much like the face of the pig. Susan jumped back when she realized the voice was coming from the pig-faced doorknob.”

    This is an acceptable degree of description, because you went further into the detail of the wooden door, since it had significant impact upon you being able to tell the story. It was also done in such a way that it was not very hard to imagine. You likely went ‘wooden door’ then focused in on the door knob as it was elaborated to have the face of a pig, then maybe you imagined the snout of the pig’s face moving like it was talking. It was an easy progressive flow of description. The image wasn’t just tossed at you and forcing you to figure it out.

    This is particularly frustrating with the “Character description dump”. You know what I’m talking about, but won’t know until I really explain it.

    That long paragraph when a new character is first introduced where the author goes into intricate detail about what the character looks like. “That was Cruella, she had arms and legs as long as a four snakes, and her bright yellow-green hair was curled about her soft, high-cheek bone face and almost hiding the deep-red eyes. Her teeth were a brilliant yellow as though she smoked far too often. The forest vegetation that sat about her body as some form of make-shift clothes was hardly doing her justice, as you could see each one of her ribs sticking through her vanilla-custard skin and the leaves at her breasts just barely covered her nipples, making her appear as though she wanted you to pull back a leaf and see more.”

    It may do amazingly well to describe the character, and maybe you can sit there and form together what the character looks like, even as you read it, but likely you’d have to read it a few times to make sure you got every detail. Then once you have gotten all the details of that character. The likelihood of you picturing that same exact detail of character again is very slim, and it’s not like the author is going to mention all that again. So instead?

    Go for peppering your works with character description. It provides a bit of mystery. Giving basics when you first introduce a character is really the way to go. For someone to picture a character, they really only actually need the sex if there is one, the hair color/style, and the eye color. There are of course other things you can add, but if they are generic things beyond that, then just slip them in later on in the story. If they are defining characteristics for a character, then you want them in there. If your character has a big, honking nose, well then you can definitely add that to the character description, but if they have really long arms or an outfit that doesn’t matter to the story, or teeth that don’t matter and won’t be seen, or a specific body type that isn’t crucial to knowing the character, then it just doesn’t need to be there.

    When it comes to description less really can be better. This is why so many works you might read on writing will say remove adjectives, or remove adverbs. This is because it is describing words that often times don’t need to be there. They serve no purpose other than to muddle up the image that the reader is producing about what you are writing.

    (Sorry this turned out really long… it should have been a blog post on my blog. lol)

    • YES. Excellent point, and one that I think is too often overlooked by writers (both published and aspiring): less is more. And that can be especially true when it comes to character description. In the past I have favored the peppered approach myself (releasing descriptions in small bits rather than a burdensome paragraph or two…or five) but as I work on my novel I’m finding that some combination of the two is suitable. I think the trick is, as with most writing elements, finding the right balance.

      SPEAKING OF BOOKS, how is Beyond Ever After coming along??? Where are you in the process? Getting close to publication?? πŸ˜€

      And yes, if you haven’t already, I hope you will use your wonderful comment again as a blog post on craft!

      • Right now… I am looking at 2 weeks from now, maybe even sooner being the Physical Copy release date for my book! I’m super excited. I’m doing a quick scan over it today and then sending it off to Harper Voyager for an Ebook, then I’ll be publishing it myself as a physical book copy with amazon. So it’ll be out soon finally and with many of the edits you helped point out to me too!

        Oh, plus, KD put the idea in my head and now I want to do a Podcast connected with my site and probably a youtube channel.

        • Jordan!!! That’s fantastic! High fives and cupcakes (if you eat cupcakes, that is) and cheers all around!!!

          I LOVE the idea of a podcast. There’s something very special (magical…if you will) about hearing an author read his or her work– probably because he/she has an intimate connection with the work that nobody else does and nobody else can precisely convey. If you make a podcast be sure to tell me…I want to hear it!!!

  4. Loved “On Writing.” I swear, there’s nothing like a book about writing to make me want to sit down and write. And what a wonderful idea, to think of it like magic! So glad I stumbled onto your blog. πŸ™‚

    • Thank you very much, Renee. And isn’t that the truth! As a writer I think that’s why it’s good to surround yourself with other writers, literary folk, and not just books but books on writing…it’s endlessly motivating to get to work and do a better job ourselves πŸ˜€

  5. Pingback: Episode Three: Excess | R A N D O M J O R D A N

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