Getting stories from my head onto the page is a bit like sitting on the couch trying to describe a movie as it runs on TV. That’s how I see books: as a film. I can start and stop and re-direct parts, but it’s always a case of trying to capture live action on the page.
The goal is always to try and crawl into that movie and participate: To feel what the characters feel, to use all the senses, and to never, ever skip over part of the scene just for convenience. Trimming can come later. It’s all about faithful recording. The better recorder I am, the better book I write.
This has its drawbacks. For one, I may not feel like getting gnoshed on by a vampire that day. Or crawling in slime. Or losing the love of my life to a demon-driven pestilence. It’s exhausting. It’s also part of being a writer, so Plucky Author just has to suck it up and feel the pain—‘cause if the author doesn’t, neither will readers.
The other difficulty is, no matter how good one is at slinging adjectives, translating what one sees on the mental screen is never seamless. The perfect, ideal book I imagine is always more fabulous than the reality of the book I write. So how do I combat this?
Experience generates knowledge, so I look for appropriate tactile adventures. Perhaps I should say adventure equivalents, since I don’t actually know many werewolves and slime demons. So, I bumble about studying the viscous qualities of household cleaning products, considering whether toilet bowl cleaner would drip the same way as ectoplasm. Ditto with half-melted jello, cake batter, and the stuff that goes into the car radiator. Anything is fair game when researching something that doesn’t actually exist.
As far as demon-driven pestilence goes, I’ve always imagined flu season combined with a really bad hangover. Zombification might be equivalent to an all-day policy development meeting. I know I’m ready to eat brains by five o’clock.
All that being said, it’s gratifying when a scene finally comes out really, really close to the mental movie. When I’ve got the atmosphere, the emotion, and the sense of urgency just right. That’s when I do a happy dance and thank the Word Gods for their inspiration.
Written language is a medium, to translate the movie from my head into yours. The better job I do, the more information you have to recreate it. Of course, your experience will influence the translation on your end. No two people experience a book exactly the same way. That’s part of what makes the process so interesting.
When you read, do you see it as a movie, or do you experience the story some other way?