There's a Chinese proverb: a picture is worth a thousand words. As writers, we know that is so true. When I go into a room, I could write a novel describing what's there, why it's there, what it says about the person, what it all means.
As storytellers, we don't communicate with words. They all have inherent meanings that have long histories dwelling back thousands of years. But they are essentially not alive. My favorite acting teacher, Jean Shelton, told me I had to lift the words from the page, give it life, and internalize them before speaking. A small task. So how do writers give life to words they're scribing?
Or the question becomes, how many words is a human emotion worth? Are words even enough? Are they worthy of that heavy weight of communicating something like love, hate, the pain a person feels when they're not accepted in society, the loss of a loved one, the never ending love of a child, or the awesome view of a sunset and why humans gather at places to witness something that happens every day? How does anyone describe what an orgasm feels like? Why do I go there?
When we look at the business of fiction, I read somewhere that half of it comes from romance novels, which makes sense given the successes of Nora Roberts, Nicholas Sparks, Fabio's career, and the widespread love of FIFTY SHADES OF GREY. What does this say? Only women have emotions. No. But words can spark emotions, which is what we communicate with. At what length, though?
I think, that is left up to the story at hand. Some stories require severe massaging, like FIFTY, others like mine require finesse because the love of a family and children needs to be subtle. Overwhelming the reader with heavy words can seem forced, unless the situation calls for it like a death of a child as written in my prologue.
This picture is so wrong...oh well...
This brings us to the dilemma of how to spark human emotions. When I type the word orgasm, does it ignite an image, a feeling, or a memory? Or do I have to go into detail, the lead up to foreplay, which is also foreplay, men, then the gentle touch and exploration of every inch of the body, plunging into the penetrating act of sex, ending in the explosive release of...pleasure? Pain? Catastrophic relief? Massive uncontrollable gyrations that jump off the cliff of silence and exhaustion?
Or do we just write enough and let the heavy lifting be done by the reader? I was talking to a fellow writer who loved FIFTY, and she said that E.L. James used suggestive words instead of being blunt. Despite my lewdness in this article, my sex scenes are pretty tame in that foreplay is the most important aspect and the climax is never written. I'm not trying to capture the female audience as much as displaying the kind of character my leading man is. He's not a wham bam, thank you ma'am kind of guy, at least not with his beloved wife. Because he understands that she wants pleasure, too, and he's completely in love with her, so he treats her like a woman and gives her everything.
This leads to one tangent that I've been thinking about. Every word that we write, we're trying to describe the setting, develop and show character, move the plot, move the story arc, root the reader to the characters, ground the story, ground character interactions, etc, all to create intrigue and a page turner. In regards to sex, this can fall into plot, for example, but it definitely shows character traits. And that's why I chose not to show my couple having sexual intercourse and emphasized the foreplay. Does that mean they never have quickies? No. Common. These are made up people. Kidding. They do have quickies, but that wouldn't communicate my leading man's love for his wife, which will be important as events continue. Show what's important, leave everything else out.