Thursday, June 18, 2009

Use Your Knowledge: Books in Works

One thing every wannabe writer knows at least something about is books. Books often play an important role in popular fiction, possibly because so many writers are avid readers themselves. They are coveted by wizards in fantasy games; they provide the plot for Deathtrap; and books are the very things we discuss as often as possible, with fellow fans and wannabes and established authors (whenever possible). So it makes sense to include a book in your fiction.

You do not have to fabricate an entire manuscript just to include it as a plot device or background dressing, nor for any other matter; you simply need to jot down some notes about the book and be able to recall at least the most visually striking. Some important information includes the title, the general era in which the book was published, and some attribution (even if "Unknown"). But other pertinent information to help form a book worthy of being the subject of your work includes dimensions, shape, color, any designs or other trappings on the cover (locks, numerous bookmarks,, where it is kept and who has access to it, and more.

To some extent, the more information you provide, the more realistic your book will seem to the reader - to a point. This kind of depth usually lends to the verisimilitude of the work, but it can backfire. Too many identifiers and too much description can lead to purple prose and information dumps as the writer attempts to fit it all in. Again, so long as you remember the major visual descriptor - be it color, shape, size, title, etc. - you always have that fallback.

Consistency is the key to establishing and maintaining suspension of disbelief. And consistency with books should come quite easily to most writers. Whether the book is handled by readers (who happen to be armchair sleuths) or chased by bibliophiles intent on adding it to their collection, writers know quite a lot about the processes, as well as the vocabulary and authority to pull it off! The entire "Write what you know" vs. "Know what you write" doesn't even apply here; we all wanted to be writers because of books and stories we read growing up, and if your knowledge of books goes only that far, you can still present a believable object and/or plot device with minimal effort.

© C Harris Lynn, 2009

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