Thursday, February 25, 2010
Experience versus Information
I’ve been on a ‘reading-about-writing’ kick lately. I just started Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King. I’m enjoying it, finding both food-for-thought and some points I feel the need to debate. Here’s an example of the latter, and I hope you’ll weigh in with your thoughts on the issue.
On page 16, Browne and King write: “You don’t want to give your readers information. You want to give them experiences.”
My first reaction to that was: “perfect!” That’s exactly what fiction writers want to do.
Except! It doesn’t appear to be what readers always want fiction writers to do.
Have you read The Da Vinci Code? The biggest blockbuster novel of our age is full of mini-lectures, and I’ve heard plenty of readers say that they loved having the chance to learn some stuff along with being entertained. (Whether what they learned was accurate or not is a different issue.) Those readers were saying they wanted the “information” that Browne and King are saying not to give them, and they were perfectly happy getting it in info-dump form without having it dramatized.
If it were just Dan Brown writing like this, we might put the readers’ reactions down to a fluke. But I’ve seen the same kind of “information-heavy” prose in a lot of popular novels, from modern thrillers to historicals. The readers aren’t always on the same “page” with the writers on show versus tell, and it’s starting to make me rethink that whole debate.
I’ll post more on this topic as I give it some more thought, but what do you think? As readers, what do you feel is the right mix? Is that mix different for readers than for writers?