Thursday, July 14, 2016

Reading is a Partnership

by Newton Love

   When Nick Schaevers takes the case, his client is already in prison, convicted of murdering a business partner. If ever there was a need for St. Jude--the Patron Saint of desperate situations--to intercede, this was it. To discover who framed his client, Nick must break laws, both statute and spiritual, and wager his life in a dangerous bet before he is through. What's a good Catholic boy doing in the killing business anyhow? Can Nick stay in the business without irreparably staining his soul? In the course of the investigation, Nick meets Wendy Crooks, who may be the soul-mate he had almost given up on meeting. The psychological strain of his life and work circumstances crossed with a new woman causes him to grow but develop new neurosis, too.

Reading is a Partnership between the Writer and the Reader

Noted philosopher and futurist, Marshall McLuhan said, back in the 1960s, that whatever other media might become popular in the future, reading books would always be the "Hottest" because it happens inside the reader's head.  
Remembering the reader is an active participant in our creation, is an important concept for all of us as writers. The reader's imagination is always at work. When we mention a character, he or she will be created in the reader's imagination from the words we give them.  
When the character is first mentioned, we need to give a quick image for the reader to build on and imagine the rest.

Describing a character feature by feature can get to sound like a police blotter. The key thing is to describe them when they are first mentioned, before the reader’s imagination take off without us. Because even if you say nothing more than "Mrs. Goodbody, the housekeeper," the reader's imagination will create a picture to go with the name. Remember, reading is a participatory sport. The reader is always actively involved in creating the characters from your words.
Here’s an example of how to do this from my mystery FINAL EXIT. It contains the first description of my brother and sister team, police Detective Jon Abercrombie and his psychic sister, Jillian, who are at the theater.

Jill leaned closer. “That woman over there thinks we’re twins.” She nodded toward a woman in large improbable pearls who surveyed them through opera glasses.

Actually, Jon knew they looked alike. Same dark eyes, same straight nose, same generous mouth. But his hair was dark where Jill’s was fair, and his jaw was square while Jill’s pointed chin gave her face a heart shape.

This example is by no means perfect, but I believe it gives the reader enough of an outline that they can "see" the two of them in their imagination, while the story gets on with the forthcoming murder.
And because each reader's imagination is slightly different, the two young theater-goers will look slightly different as each reader's imagination supplies the details that reader creates...

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