Child readers are even smarter.
“Whenever you write, whatever you write, never make the mistake of assuming the audience is any less intelligent than you are.” -Rod Serling
“The audience is not only amazingly sensitive, but as it settles into a darkened theatre its collective IQ jumps twenty-five points. When you go to the movies, don’t you often feel you’re more intelligent than what you’re watching?… The audience is not only smart, it’s smarter than most films…It’s all a writer can do, using all the craft he’s mastered, to keep ahead of the sharp perceptions of a focused audience.” – Robert McKee
You often hear the platitude of not “writing down” to kids, but McKee’s quote, from his book on screenwriting, struck me. Is it true? Do I really get smarter when I walk into a movie theatre?
I think the answer is yes.
The reason lies in the amazing capacity of the human brain to synthesize information and find patterns. Sometimes that intake of information happens on a subconscious or purely emotional level. We sense danger, but we’re not sure why. A slight change in ambient sound, and we’re running to the bathroom, convinced the toddler’s gotten into the shaving cream again. A small quirk of a man’s smile, and we’re certain that he’s hiding a dark secret.
Movies are a tremendous barrage of information, and we are captivated by them, fully immersed in an alternate world for a couple of hours. Images, sounds, dialogue, facial expressions … a thousand bits of information a second, and our brain soaks it up, processes it, and spits back out a pattern, an organized understanding…a story.
Books are captivating in a different, but similar, way. The movie plays in our heads, created by the script we read on the page. But it’s even more powerful, because we fill in our own nuances, expressions, motivations. And we can dive into the character’s heads, something movies don’t allow. We KNOW what that character is thinking as he sneaks down the darkened hallway, creeping up on the rusted shut door with the ominous looking key dangling in the lock. Don’t open the door! we shout, because the writer has led us to believe there’s something wicked that way.
How do you stay one step ahead of this terribly brilliant person, the reader?
Master the craft and form of storytelling. Layer in clues, but not too many. Raise the tension and pace, so they don’t have time to think before the twist is upon them. Make it impossible to predict, but obvious in retrospect.
These things are hard, but no one ever said writing was easy.
And never, ever assume your reader isn’t smart enough to figure it out. Especially if they are children.
“You have to write whichever book it is that wants to be written. And then, if it’s going to be too difficult for grown-ups, you write it for children.” -Madeleine L’Engle
Speaking of smart readers, I have some of the most erudite in the blogosphere! To celebrate reaching my 300th follower mark, I’m hosting a giveaway this week!
1) A book of your choice. No, it doesn’t have to be erudite literature. Yes, it can be brain candy. It’s your choice. No judgment here. 🙂
2) A twenty page critique of the opening of your WIP by yours truly.
Those are TWO separate prizes, so please indicate which one you want to be entered for (or both! Also an option!).
1) Be a follower (this is a follower celebration after all).
2) Tweet if you like, Facebook if you can, but you MUST leave a comment. Else, how will I know you were here? All comments, in any post this week, count! But leave one by 9 am EST Friday, when I will pick and post the winner.
3) Use a big word today. Out loud. Or I’ll send a sparkly vampire after you. (Also, you could share it in the comments, if you would like to broaden our vocabularial horizons. Yes, I made that noun an adjective. Have a problem with that?)
Most importantly … THANK YOU to all my delightful followers! You help make this ethereal piece of the blogosphere a writerly home, and I love you for it!
p.s. As if ONE giveaway isn’t enough, check back tomorrow for another cool contest announcement! 🙂