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Busting Open the Dark Box in Winter

It isn't a new idea in the world, but it might be the first time I ever put the idea into practice: visualizing a book rather than just reading it.

What exactly is your brain doing when you read a book? It knows the meaning of each word, but that is only a partial step towards visualizing a sentence. You are still just mechanically rastering across the page. There is something dry and sterile and lifeless about it. It is eye-fatigue, but the mind stays bored.

But what if you changed your job from a movie scriptwriter to the person responsible for "screenplay" or teleplay? They turn the sterile verbiage of the writer into tangible things that move and can be photographed in an interesting way.

Perhaps somebody who has spent most of his life reading non-fiction doesn't really appreciate the importance of this verbiage-to-screenplay transition. Switching to fiction, things change. I happen to be reading Bernard Cornwell's "Saxon Tales" right now. Consider visualizing this sentence:

He ruled where the seals swam and the puffins flew, where the winds howled and where ships were wrecked, where the cold bit like a knife and the souls of drowned men moaned in the darkness.
It takes several seconds to form a vivid image of this in your mind. Maybe you can draw on history shows you have seen, documentaries, movies, videos on the internet, or personal experiences. The older you get, the deeper your reservoir of personal experiences becomes. Your rate of reading would drastically slow down if you do a lot of this. But so what? It will just mean less eye-fatigue on a dark winter evening.

The mind will crackle like a wood-burning stove as it moves out from dark little box you live in to the great and moving world outside that box.




Ed said…
Cornwell writes like he is writing a screenplay, much like Larry McMurtry did with his first three novels.

1961: Horseman, Pass By – adapted for film as Hud
1963: Leaving Cheyenne – adapted for film as Lovin' Molly
1966: The Last Picture Show – adapted for film as The Last Picture Show

James A. Michener was another author that wrote novels as screenplays or screenplays as novels - however you wish to look at it.

When you finish the Saxon Stories do read Cornnwell's Warlord Chronicles / The Arthur Books. This was his early work which I think lead him to the Saxon Stories.

Thanks, Ed. I'll give the Warlord Chronicles a try.
Dave Davis said…
If I could not visualize the words I read into images, I wouldn't bother to read. This is why I prefer fiction. It is just more descriptive usually. I've tried non fiction several times, but facts and data are usually very dry. There is no limit to the number of fiction books. I enjoy at least 2 every week.
Glad you are happy with the results you have gotten from fiction, Dave Davis. I was turned off by the romantic and sexual obsessions of fiction writers. So I probably gave up on fiction too easily.