I just finished reading Foundation, by Isaac Asimov. It impressed me quite a bit (as you can tell from my Goodreads review), and one of the things that most impressed me was Asimov’s writing style. Two things about it that I found noteworthy:
1. It contained absolutely no fluff. None whatsoever. The writing was pared down to its essentials — every word either advanced the story or gave insight into the world or the characters. And all the insights Asimov chose to give about the latter two generally ended up being important to the story. Very tight.
2. The book had a fascinating space-opera world, intriguing characters, and a plot spanning centuries that kept taking unexpected twists. It was brilliant. But it wasn’t the full-immersion escapist experience most novels aim to be. And you know what? It didn’t need to be.
You don’t have to look farther than the title of this blog to see what we think of escapism. We believe in the transportational magic of books and other media. But I’ve read a couple of older books in the past year (not classic-old — more like 60’s-old), and I’ve realized that the great authors of that era knew how to do something current writers seems to have forgotten how to do. They didn’t feel the burden to have to show everything. They knew when the slower parts of the story could be told quickly, in a few sentences. And I think they could see that not every story has to be an escapist story.
So, in case you feel like you’ve been beaten over the head one too many times with “show, don’t tell” and “immerse your character in the world” and “use all five senses” — I don’t think you have to follow these rules all the time. There are more stories to tell than just the ones we want to live through.
Just something to think about.