The mark of an excellent novel, in my opinion, is made by how much I fall into the story and its world and how much I care about the characters. There’s really nothing quite like a book that I don’t want to put down. You know the kind – they’re the ones that leave you sad when they end.
I was thinking about the elements that go into such a story and it occurred to me that for me, it’s the author’s ability to leave things out. Description, in too much detail, takes away my need to imagine them. But having said that, it’s only certain things I don’t want described to me.
If a land, for instance, is extremely foreign then I need as much detail as I can get. But certain actions… Take sex scenes for instance. I find them much more erotic if they are sparsely described than if they are laid out like a users’ manual, unless there is something particularly unusual about the scene. Another one for me is the description of characters. Even if someone is described in minute detail, I tend to get my own impression of their appearance and I think a lot of what I imagine has to do with their character itself, for instance whether they are a villain or a lover. It’s like when I talk to someone on the phone on a daily basis – I get an idea of what he or she looks like based on their voice and the way they talk. It’s usually a shock to see what the person actually looks like!
The point is, it’s the lack of description in many cases that makes me think–makes me imagine more–and this is what draws me in. If I’m able to place a modicum of my own experience into a world I’m reading about, it becomes mine. It becomes a place I love to be, populated with people I can truly envision.
What do you like left out of the stories you read? Do you have a favourite thing you like to envision for yourself?