Saturday, November 06, 2010

Switching to Common References

By Keith N Fisher

Did you see The Wizard of Oz? When I was a kid, I watched two or three times and didn’t know it was in color. It was big entertainment on television for Thanksgiving, but we didn’t have color TV.

When that movie came out, color was expensive and it was an untried medium. The producers made the decision to show the Land of Oz scenes in color, I assume, because it was a fantasy world. The effect was marvelous but there was a downside, too.

One problem was in the translation. In my case, I didn’t get to see it in a theater, so I didn’t see the color effect. Another downside was the transition back to the real world. It went from a brilliantly beautiful land of color back to a drab, colorless world. It makes you think that Oz is a much better place than real life.

The latter downside isn’t really a problem. It’s normal in fiction. As readers, we want to visit fantastic worlds and meet heroic characters. The first downside, however, is a big problem.

How many times have you watched a movie or read a book and been lost? I admit, there have been many times for me. I’ve found if I don’t watch or read carefully, I miss the premise and the plot gets lost in the translation. There are other books that never explain the premise, though. In those cases, I shake my head and feel cheated out of the time it took to read.

Writers can be strange. We live in a world of our creation. Real life is often interrupted by a thought that leads to a plot twist or character quirk. Then we make mental notes to use it in our next writing session. With all the consideration that goes into drafting, writing, and editing a book, we have the premise down pat. Nobody knows more about our creation than we do, but the reader hasn’t been there before.

When The Wizard of Oz switched from black & white to color and back again, it was an innovative and magical effect. But it was lost on a generation of the television watching audience. When a kid living on a farm in Nebraska reads your book about the mean streets of New York, he’s going to need some reference that helps him relate. Especially if he’s never seen a television.

I know the odds of that are slim, but the point is valid. Your audience can’t enjoy your book if they can’t relate.

I’ve enjoyed a few obscure books lately. I say obscure, because I loved them, but others didn’t. When I analyzed the reasons, I discovered a common reference I shared with the author. I could relate in a personal way, but others couldn’t.

Don’t let your book go on the obscure list. Get help from proofreaders and try to imagine all the potential readers. Ask yourself, will they understand?

Good luck with your writing—see you next week.


L.T. Elliot said...

Excellent, excellent post, Keith! This is something I adore readers for because I'm never sure exactly where I got lost in the confines of my own world. They point it out and most times, I feel good about it. Hopefully, it will make sense when/if it makes it to the bookshelf!

Keith Fisher said...

Laura, it is not if, but when. You are a great writer.

Stephy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Stephy said...

This bring sup some interesting thoughts. I will definitely use this when I write.

Thank you for the intelligent insight! :)

Stephy said...

This bring sup some interesting thoughts. I will definitely use this when I write.

Thank you for the intelligent insight! :)