Drat. My apologies, readers, but I didn’t get to finish my next Writerly Sound Bites post this past week. Too many items popped up that required my attention, and I couldn’t spare the time. Darn.
That said, I will not leave you in the lurch. You can check out Mr. Cheah’s excellent article below, as well as the previous two Writerly Sound Bites posts here and here. And if you subscribed to my newsletter, then you probably saw my latest piece appear there this morning. It is quite different from the usual fare here at Song, so I look forward to hearing the feedback on it. 😉
Hopefully this coming week I will have my own Vocational Vivications post waiting for you, readers. Until then, enjoy the offerings in the links, and have a blessed day!
The Last Thousand Words
Dozens of days of research. Hundreds of hours of writing. Constant sweating and fact-checking, checking in proofreaders and editors, editing and re-editing the manuscript, polishing it to perfection. Every fact must be checked, every slang word period-accurate, every last detail lifted from reality. And what is the fruit of your labours?
One thousand words.
No more than that. One thousand words, give or take, describing the little details most readers wouldn’t notice. Little things like a combat shooter preferring a crisp four pound trigger with no creep or slack. The symbolism of the designs on the uniform of a court official. Little things most people wouldn’t think of noticing.
Things most readers don’t know or care about.
Outside of a few specialist genres, most readers aren’t terribly concerned with authenticity and realism. A thorough survey of the Amazon bestsellers list will quickly dispel any notion that readers put much stock in the authenticity of a scene, a character, a world. If asked to assess a story for realism, most readers don’t even know enough to know what to look for. And neither do most writers.
What’s the difference between Chinese, Korean and Japanese cultures? Ask your average Western wuxia / xianxia enjoyer and see if he can pick apart the disparate cultural elements in an ‘Asian-influenced cultivation setting’—and explain why they don’t belong together.
How do you plan, organize and execute a battalion-level attack? In most genres, it doesn’t matter, so long as the reader gets to see the hero jump into the thick of things.
Why does a character act in a certain way? The average reader won’t care too much so long as the narrative continues to deliver thrills and spills. And the average author in turn doesn’t care about authenticity either, so long as the dollars and reviews keep flowing in.
The spirit of the age elevates messaging over reality, feelings over truth, irony over drama, pop culture references over creativity. Taking creative risks is a huge gamble, one that may not pay off. Easier to simply deliver what readers are already expecting, to hit the nostalgia groove and trigger the dopamine rush of recognition of pop cult references than to create your own world and to dive into the research necessary to make it believable. Perusing the Amazon Kindle store by sales rank will quickly dispel all notions that realism is essential, or even necessary, to create a bestseller.