January 11, 2013

The Iceberg Effect

I've often heard people say that novels are like icebergs. Readers only see 10% of what actually exists in the author's mind. This is an essential truth, especially for myself, in an entertaining, creepy, obsessive sort of way.

While writing Insight, the first book in Beholders, I was working at a civil engineering firm. My responsibility (among many other tedious details) was to research and write legal documents for DOT property acquisitions. Basically, when the state decided to build a road, I figured out who owned the property and how much land the state needed to buy from them. So, as you can imagine, when I started creating the world of Appernysia, I found myself stepping into 2 real problems.

First, because of my background with legal ramifications, I had a natural tendency to over-explain landscapes and architecture. I wanted to make ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN that the reader knew EXACTLY how my world looked. I couldn't fathom the thought of people misinterpreting my descriptions. Second, because I had developed such an astute appreciation for detailed and perfectly accurate architectural and engineering plans, I thought everyone felt the same way.

I was WAY off!

To fully understand my point, you have to fully understand what went into the creation of Appernysia. I have piles of self-created maps, cross-section schematics (for those who even know what cross-section schematics are) of trees, walls, corridors, weapons, bridges, rivers, etc. I even took the time to create one of my main cities, Itorea, in Minecraft. All these creations, in most cases, are an excellent waste of time for authors, although they do help us imagine our worlds more clearly. The point is, 99% of readers do not care if the stone bridge connecting a scout tower to a curtain wall is 8.5 feet long. Too detailed. Too tedious.

Simply put, authors should trust their readers intuitions, and allow their readers the active use of their imaginations. Don't stifle their creative sides with yours. Isn't that why books are always better than movies? As readers, we can put our individually perfect faces on the characters, rather than having a director shove their interpretations down our throats. This is especially enjoyable with those characters we love to hate, like Braedr Pulchria.


J. A. Bennett said...

*stands up and claps* bravo! I seriously can't wait until the JFP version comes out :)

Elsie Park said...

Great post, Terron, and the iceberg picture is GORGEOUS!

Chloe Neafsey said...