We’ve all heard the saying about a picture being worth a thousand words.
As writers, we deal with words, not pictures. But ultimately, the words are there to create imaginary pictures, so it’s worth thinking a little about what sort of mental pictures a thousand words might convey.
Who creates those pictures that come from words?
Is it the writer, or the reader? And if it’s the reader, to what extent should the writer try to influence the type of pictures the reader creates?
The Concept of Beauty
We all have different ideas about what is beautiful and what’s not. Sure, there are conventionally accepted standards, particularly in assessing whether or not people are beautiful but when it comes right down to the particular, there is always a certain something that’s hard to define, that determines whether or not we find someone or something attractive.
Just because I find something beautiful, that doesn’t mean you’ll think it’s beautiful too.
Descriptive Fiction Writing
It’s tempting to describe the people in the story, but often more effective for the reader if you leave the definition of beauty up to the other characters.
For instance, if I describe a young woman with long blonde hair, big blue eyes and a pouting mouth, and then tell readers she’s beautiful, they may not agree that what I’ve described is actually beautiful.
Maybe they, personally, find brunettes more attractive, or they like brown eyes or little mouths.
Readers will, however, readily accept that other characters find her beautiful.
Show, Don’t Tell
If I want my readers to accept that a character is beautiful because her/his beauty is central to the story, I’d try to avoid giving actual descriptions beyond the most vague. Whether or not the character is good looking is conveyed through the ways in which other characters behave.
When readers are allowed to paint their own pictures to accompany a story, they’re more immersed in the storytelling process and more willing to suspend disbelief.
They’re more immersed in the story and so are much more likely to keep turning the pages.