I read an interesting tweet written by an up-and-coming author named Ksenia Anske that went a little something like this:
“My problem is not in what to write. I see stories in my head like complete movies. My problem is in how to write it all down.”
And I couldn’t relate more.
Like many writers out there, I have an active imagination. The stories I want to tell live in my head: I can see, hear, smell, taste, and feel what’s happening to or around my characters.
For instance, a scene I’m working on right now in Dark Flesh takes place on a foggy bridge. Aaron and his daughter are tracking someone through the undead infested city, and they’re searching the bridge for clues on where he might’ve gone.
The details are so apparent to me; if I were a director, if I could build the sets and cast the actors, I would be able to get the feel just right. However, translating all of those little things that happen simultaneously into a linear writing form can frustrate me sometimes. If I choose sight and smell, then I may miss out on describing the sounds, or is it okay to describe all of the stimuli in a scene? Isn’t that too much detail?
I ask myself: how can I possibly distill everything that’s going on in my head, what seems like real life, into words on the page?
Even the scripts for films and television shows are quite barebones. If you’ve never done so before, take a look at scripts for your favorite movies. Most detail is left out because ultimately the director chooses what everything will look like. It just seems like such an easier transition from mind to reality than mind to paper. You’re creating the thing itself in a film or television show whereas in writing you’re creating symbols, representations for whatever you’re talking about, be it a bridge or a zombie or a mysterious black trunk . . .
But what do you think? Do you have difficulty describing your scenes and characters as they live in your head or is it easier to paint a picture using words?
As an exercise perhaps I’ll take one of my favorite movie scenes and describe it in prose as if it were a novel. What details would I choose to emphasize in my description? Hmmm . . .