Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Close Your Eyes

By Mark W. Danielson

Have you ever been told not to go into something blindly? While it’s good advice for some things, it doesn’t apply to writing. In fact, if it were possible, I’d suggest you close your eyes and visualize what I’m saying.

While our eyes reveal many beautiful things, they can also keep us from seeing. If you don’t believe me, ask a blind person what he is seeing right now. He may describe a city bus, propane powered, doors beeping as they open, off-loading people a block away. One person stops to light a cigarette. Others text as they walk away. An approaching light airplane is pulling a banner. An SUV pulls up to a stop light, stereo blasting, being driven by a young male, probably tattooed. Those of us with sight tend to take these things for granted, yet each of them has their own stories. If we truly want to see, then we must learn to see with closed eyes and open minds.

Music videos destroy a song’s soul because they rob us of our own interpretations. Once viewed, the video image becomes etched in our brains, barring us from seeing anything different. Add to that, appearance bias. America may idolize a pretty face with a shrill voice, but to a blind man, it’s just shrill. Instead of being enchanted by a contestant’s face, try closing your eyes, listen to their voice, and then cast your vote.

Have you ever been disappointed by the movie version of a book? Most people have. In fact, it happens so often that movies are now prefaced with the words, “based on” whatever the story is titled. Your images of what the characters should have looked like are so vivid that you may actually walk out without giving the movie a chance. James Patterson once remarked to a group of authors, “If you ever have the chance to visit a movie set that’s based on one of your books, DON’T.” That says a lot.

So, what does this mean for you as an author? It means you should write for a blind man. In other words, you need to create images that are so powerful that they come alive in your mind. To test your success, have someone read your manuscript out loud while you listen with eyes closed. By doing this, you not only hear whether your dialogue works, but you can also visualize the scenes. If this image isn’t what you had intended, then you have more work ahead of you.


Jean Henry Mead said...

Excellent advice, Mark, especially the pitches and cadences of voices, scents that assault the senses, and weather that chills or roasts the skin. :)

Mark W. Danielson said...

Any author who has touched all of a reader's senses has written a successful story.

Jaden Terrell said...

Great reminder, Mark. It's so easy to rely on visual images, but appealing to the other senses as well can bring a story to life.

Chester Campbell said...

I have a program that will read what I've written, but I haven't used it in ages. Thanks for the suggestion. I'll get it out and see (or hear) what my new book sounds like.

Mark W. Danielson said...

That's a pretty cool program, Chester. What's it called?