Eric, a friend and co-worker, dropped by my apartment today to lend me his DVD of THE WOLFMAN. He spotted my collection of movie memorabilia on the walls. He hushed in a breath. With trembling fingers, he touched a small card by the door.
It was a card containing an authentic piece of fabric from the black body suit worn by Scarlett Johansson as the Black Widow in IRON MAN 2. He looked at me as if I had the Shroud of Turin on my wall.
"She wore this, man. Her bare flesh touched this. Her DNA is on this cloth. Her DNA."
"Ah, Eric it could have been worn by her stunt double, or it could have been cut from the trimmed pieces of fabric on the floor when they made the outfit."
"No, man. This card certifies with a hologram and shit that this piece of cloth is from Scarlett's suit. Oh, man, it touched her body."
"You need to get out more, Eric."
"Hey, I go out plenty. Just not with Scarlett."
"Well, neither do I."
"Yeah, but you got her DNA."
And as he hung the card back up sadly on my wall, I realized what I would get him for Christmas : an autographed photo of Scarlett. After all, in touching the picture to sign, she would have left some of her DNA on it, too. It would repay him for giving me the autographed photo of Angelina Jolie. Guys. We are a strange breed.
And what does this have to with the art of writing?
Well, it gives you a little insight into the bizarre psyches of two friends. And it also teaches us an important lesson in how to write.
Eric read into the card more than the words on it. It said the cloth was from the body suit worn in the movie. But in his mind, Eric could see Scarlett putting on the skin-tight suit. The words said little, Eric's imagination suggested much more. The readers who turn the pages of our books are like Eric in that our words will suggest to them a whole canvas of images if we choose the words with craft and lyrical style.
Write the sizzle not the steak.
Remember Stephen King from two posts ago?
"Good books don't give up all their secrets at once. Fiction is the truth inside the lie."
Just another way of saying, "Sell the sizzle not the steak. Let the reader smell the aroma of the cooking plot, hear the sizzling of approaching danger, and taste the ashy flavor of death in the air like smoke from a gutted home.
You see, the most important things, the crucial things are hard to wrap words around. Haven't you felt it? You ached to say the right thing to a grieving neighbor, a dying friend -- and the words that came to you were so meager -- like having a foot long square of wrapping paper to somehow put around a two foot wide gift.
Stephen King put it this way :
"The most important things are the hardest to say.
They are the things you get ashamed of, because words diminish them --
words shrink things that seemed limitless when they were in your head to no more than living size when they're brought out.
But it's more than that, isn't it? The most important things lie too close to wherever your secret heart is buried, like landmarks to a treasure your enemies would love to steal away.
And you may make revelations that cost you dearly only to have people look at you in a funny way, not understanding what you've said at all, or why you thought it was so important that you almost cried while you were saying it.
That's the worst, I think. When the secret stays locked within not for want of a teller but for want of an understanding ear."
And because Stephen King writes in wisdom like that, we buy his books.
And that's what's so important about our blog friends. You understand what it means to want to express the haunting images inside your head by crude things like the written word.
I understand. I'm one of you. And I am reaching out to you as you are reaching back to me -- from the confines of the solitary confinement of our minds, held prisoner by the limitations of the written word.
Neither one of us totally understands. But that's all right. Sometimes it's good just to be silent with a friend in the night.
The darkness is gathering, growing stronger in this world, and only the light of brave, caring hearts stands in its way.
Never say that I don't offer a public service here. So if you want the legs and tummy of Gwyneth Paltrow, go to this link (I tried these blasted exercises, and now I'm walking like the Penguin in BATMAN) :
33 minutes ago