Thursday, December 9, 2010

"A taught thriller"

This, to me, sounds like a way you might describe someone's butt, not someone's book. But that is probably just me.

Last night I finished reading REVOLVER by Marcus Sedgwick. Have you read it? I would classify it as a taught thriller (of the non-butt variety). It's an historical novel about a family living in the arctic circle, dealing with a major crisis. It is very intense, though I think the intensity is written extremely well for the target audience of this book (which I would put at probably 12 and up).

The book is written almost like a play - a one room drama with some flashbacks. It's short, concise, full of psychological action, and it's very easy to read. I recommend it, and not just because I want more people to read it so they can talk to me about it.

One thing the book made me think about is writing with minimal description and how, when a book is well done like REVOLVER, I finish it actually "seeing" the world better than I would have had there been detailed descriptions of every nook and eye twitch. My brain has filled in the nooks and eye twitches on its own and for this I am grateful to Mr. Sedgwick. Grateful that he trusts us to create the world in our own minds, with only a little guidance from his words.

This trust that the author has for his reader is another reason why REVOLVER reminds me of a play. When you write a play, people don't like it when you write in too much direction. Don't write in the script that the actor stomps into the room and shouts angrily, let the actors read your words and figure out the emotions for themselves. Often, in books, we are not given this leeway. Every minute feeling and action is laid out for us in a buffet of words. Sometimes this works (in something dated but beautifully ornate like Gone With the Wind), but often it steals power away from the reader.

I don't think writers think they are stealing power from their readers, and I don't think readers realize their jobs are being subsumed by too many words. Until a reader pulls out a book like REVOLVER. Suddenly, the world comes alive, with limited prose, and it is a wonder to behold.

I especially appreciate this authorial trust in children's books. Let the kids create the world as you take them on a tour. To me, A WRINKLE IN TIME is famous for this. I read it as a child and saw so much vivid detail, that when I read it again as an adult I was shocked - shocked - at how much of that book had been devised by my own wee brain.

So what do you guys think? Do you know what I'm talking about? Lack of description equaling a richer reading experience? It seems counterintuitive, and yet.... it's true. To me, at least.


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