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Visuals are a very important part of storytelling. When you’re only using the written word to tell that story, they become even more important. A writer has to give the reader the visuals they need to see the story unfolding.
This idea works closely with the “show don’t tell” principle. Show your characters’ actions and ticks in order to visually cue to your readers what emotions they are feeling or what they plan to do in a situation. Let your readers see the room as your character enters, let them notice what the character notices and see what they see.
As a reader I love when there are lots of details so I can really see a character or place in the story. I like to visualize what I’m reading. But that doesn’t mean I need every fact about how something looks.
As a writer I try to strike a balance between showing the reader exactly what visuals I see, and allowing room for the reader’s imagination to fill in the blanks. I like to know everything about my characters appearances, from eye, hair and skin color to their usual style, height and body type. But that doesn’t mean all these facts will make it into the story. I like to leave the reader room to imagine the character how they want.
I do the same thing for places in my stories. I may know where every stick of furniture is in the room, what color it is, how big it is, and how long it’s been in the room, but I’m only going to tell the reader about the important things. I want readers to have a sense of the room, but not overwhelm them with details that don’t add anything else to the story.
I’m one of those writers who includes a lot of detail in the first draft and often have to remove the excess later. I know lots of writers who have bare bones first draft and have to add in most of the visuals and details later. What kind of drafter are you? What are some of your favorite visuals to use in your work?