Friday, October 24, 2014
Writing: More Than A Painting
Some look upon novels as being like paintings. They can be appreciated for their art, for the way they portray events and scenes, pulling us in like the seascape in the illustration. But if that's all our books are, they aren't fulfilling their potential. If we read them and move on, we're like people who don't pause in front of Rembrandt's The Night Watch and study the characters, the composition, and even the message. I think our novels should be more than paintings.
Novels can be mirrors. Author and writing teacher James Scott Bell refers to a scene, generally toward the center of the book, as a "mirror moment." He likens it to a character looking at themselves in a mirror and seeing something they haven't perceived before--a needed change, a shift in direction. Likewise, the same thing can happen to a reader who has identified with the character having that epiphany. Ideally, a novel should hold up a mirror to the reader and say, "Look. Is this you? Do you know someone like this? What does this say to you?"
And finally, our novels can be windows, through which the reader can view the lives we create. How many of us have unabashedly watched people in restaurants, airports, and other public places as they interact? The view through the window our books open should ultimately give the reader impetus toward a fuller understanding of themselves, a change in their lives, or a desire for something more.
What novels have you read that have served all these functions? Writers, do your own works have these characteristics? I'd like to hear.
(Painting by Kay Mabry of Sugar Beach in Maui).
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