Recently I decided I was finally ready to read On the Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta. You may remember Melina as the author of the beyond-amazing Finnikin of the Rock. I’d heard her other work was just as good, and so I didn’t immediately seek it out.
I wanted to save it. To savor it. I was totally right.
On the Jellicoe Road is one of those writer-altering books, and I will never be the same. But it made me look at my own writing and confront some problems I’ve noticed but never consciously verbalized: I over-explain. I’m self-conscious. And I believe in adverbs.
These problems manifest themselves in my dialogue. My characters tend to analyze each sentence someone speaks. Often times while writing I wonder ‘how in the heck do other writers do it?’ because it seems that if my character’s don’t ‘react’ then I’m being boring, but if they do react then I’m writing awkwardly.
I seem to feel compelled to add modifiers to almost each sentence as well. From describing what someone’s face is doing to how their voice reads. It only occurred to me recently to consciously delete that stuff out, but now I wonder if it will read as boring or vivid to the reader.
I believe in the power of writing as a form of telepathy, and I absolutely believe in the beauty of minimalism and letting readers fill in their own details. I also believe in ‘trusting’ the reader, yet still I struggle.
What is your philosophyHow do you balance the lure of explicit, lush detail with beauty through minimalism and the reader’s own vision? How do you combat self-consciousness yet maintain an emotive character?
I guess it’s time to return to beta readers to assure myself that I’m on the right track. Your thoughts, however, are always appreciated :-)