Putting the movie in the mind onto the page

I’ve heard quite a few writers talk about how they can see their story in their mind like a movie, but they get frustrated that they can’t seem to capture it in words.

To which I reply:

Well, of course you can’t. If writing could communicate images as easily as actual images, the film industry wouldn’t exist.

You shouldn’t be trying to capture images with your writing, you should be trying to convey emotions. Let the readers create their own images; give their imaginations some credit!

I’m not saying you should never describe anything visual. Of course you must do that. I’m saying that the point of your descriptions should not be to share the “movie in your mind” or the “picture in your head.” It should be to convey an emotion (usually the emotion of the POV character at that time) through the description, both in its wording and in what you choose to include in it.

The reader is never going to see that brilliant image in your mind, but if you can convey a powerful emotion with your words, you can trust that his imagination will be perfectly capable of filling in the details and coming up with something that will work better for him than anything you could describe.

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