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Tag Archives: Michael Crichton

Greetings, Bearers!

I hope that all of you had a fantastic Memorial Day that not only included fun activities, but also the remembrance of those who fought and died for the United States (if you’re reading this and not a U.S. citizen, hopefully you have a similar day on your calendar). I never served in the military (came close and missed it by four inches, but that’s another story I’ll have to share with you sometime), but those who did earn my respect. They do a  great service, and many of them are shining examples of what it means to be a model citizen.

Okay, on to my topic. I’ve been getting the itch lately to write a little bit about my viewpoints on writing, and while I don’t reach the level of the greats in prominence and sales (and probably eloquence too), I have learned several things about the craft, and want to share those with you, particularly if you aspire to write.

One of the most important things that a writer can do for his/her readers is the “world immersion,” i.e., the explanation of things in the book that facilitate an understanding of the workings that undergird the setting or plot of a given story. This immersion is approached by different authors in different ways, some of which I’m not too crazy about. One of my least favorites is the “infodump” method, in which the writer simply sets out to drop an entire chapter’s worth of data upon the reader in a manner similar to a dry academic essay. Guilty parties include Michael Crichton in his book Prey  and George Orwell’s 1984 (Remember the excerpt from the political manifesto that Winston reads aloud for several pages?). This sort of “drop-it-in-the-reader’s-lap-all-at-once” method can ruin the atmosphere of otherwise-enjoyable books like the two I just mentioned, and it can discourage the reader in that the mood of a great drama is broken by the interruption of a scholarly lecture.

Another immersion that I’m not fond of is an assumed immersion, in which the author makes a little bit too much of an assumption about the audience. As much as I appreciate Tom Clancy and his works, he tended to do this in some of his books, often talking in military jargon in a manner that somebody like me who has no military background becomes confused and has a difficult time envisioning what it is he’s trying to convey. Assumed immersion is fine when you know your audience is familiar with your setting and subject, but it’s murder on the outsider.

Personally, I prefer world immersion through one of two methods, between which I like to walk a bit of a tightrope. The first is through simply showing that world off in a guided tour, so to speak. I like to take the reader through the world with the protagonist (or perhaps another character) and expose the reader, little by little, to the things that (s)he may need to remember for later, or may need then and there in order to make sense of what’s going on.  The reader sees the events and world along with the character, all the while I word the things and ideas in such a way as to make them relateable.

My second chosen method is that of exposition through dialogue. This is especially useful in the Vein series, as the reader is traveling along with the Seven Bearers into an alien world which fits few, if any, of their preconceptions and cultures. Here, information is gathered through talking with others in the Vein, mostly through the knowledgable members of the Sect. The conversations are complete enough to give the reader a good sense of what’s going on, yet at the same time an effort is made to avoid a mere infodump by spacing out the places where information is needed and given.

The reasons why I do these are two. First, as with many things in a good story, I like to see a gradual unraveling or revealing of what’s coming up. I personally don’t like stories where everything is thrown at the reader in the first few chapters, and that lack of surprise is something I don’t want my readers to endure. Second, in doing this I can pace the information. I can sprinkle bits and pieces of necessary exposition without running the risk of stopping the action or killing the mood. All that information, as good as it is, defeats the purpose of the story if it interferes with the drama.

So that’s my little tidbit for writing today. I hope you’ve found it to be beneficial.  Perhaps I’ll put up an excerpt as an example of this so as to give you a sense of how I do it.

But in the meantime, it’s onward and upward as more writing must be accomplished. Forward ho!

See you in the Vein!

J. Dean