April 11, 2014

The Art of Interweaving an Idea

Dear M,

Though we claim that the best writers do not force their convictions on the reader and they let the readers decide, I believe that they subtly interweave their own opinions about each man and woman into their writing. No, I am not talking about the Show, Not Tell thing.

It's not about the author showing us what a generous, sensitive, large-hearted person the hero is, or how cunning or manipulative someone else is. It's about how they allow a certain thought or an idea to seep in almost imperceptibly into our minds. At the end of the book, that might be the only thought that remains in our mind, and we'll even convince ourselves that the idea had occurred to us, and that it was not planted in our mind by someone else.

In one novel, the author conveys to us (though we cannot recall or locate where we had read those lines) that the hero was the only person who truly understood the heroine's wild side, and actually loved her for it. This feeling keeps coming back to us every ten pages or so.

Much later, after reading the book 2-3 times, it occurred to me that it is not true, the hero did not actually understand her all that much, because if he did, he would not have done something that he did. Then I had to ask myself where in the world did I get such an idea in the first place? It was not mine. I would never have come up with the notion that he was all that understanding. He was supportive, true. But he did not quite get her as much as we believed he did. It was clear then. It was not my impression; it was the author's gentle suggestion and we had all lapped it up.

In another even more famous work, a certain speech is considered to have stirred up the emotions of the public. It did stir me when I read it first. Then as I grew older and read it again and again, it did not seem all that stirrable. But we were talking about the confused, listening mob. I could be wrong. The very fact that I was doubtful about the power of that speech told me that the initial idea was planted in my mind by the author. The author had subtly suggested that the speech was powerful enough to make the mob go crazy. The suggestion was so gentle and undetectable that we, the unsuspecting reader, believed it was true.


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