Visual vs Cerebral

I’ve spent a lot of time writing. I’ve been writing since the fifth grade. I’ve been writing for over half of my life.

I believe inspiration for writers directly influences their ability to write: the market is saturated with Twilight spinoffs and young first-time writers diving into the foray with stories they believe could make a difference in the world. The difference between most of what I see now and what I’ve read from the past is the focus: cerebral or visual.

Most new writers write visually–myself included. By visually, I mean they write like they’re recounting a movie, or dream. The difference between a good writer and a great one–the kind that stands the test of time–will break the boundaries of a “visual” book and a “cerebral” book.

Most new writers (and I’ve been spending a lot of time at This Site for reasearch/study) spend so much time writing how they visualize their favorite cartoons, or how they want their imagined romance to turn out through physical means only. They don’t spend much time in the person’s head.

I write fantasy. I don’t care what I read, as long as it feels true. As long as it feels real and believable. It can be dry, it can be violent, it can be complex or simple. It must feel real. Even the fantasy. Even the science fiction. So many fresh writers–and well-published ones nowadays–write weak on the details of the mind, and the thought process.

I’m not saying all books need this. I’m saying most books in most genres lack this. Some of the greatest fantasy writers spend so much time on environment, on sociopolitical strategy/politics, on the hierarchical structure of magic (or whatever their focus is), but they all delve deeply inside their characters’ reasons, intents, and motivations.

Advice for new, or unpublished writers–myself included–write the insides of people. Write the inside out. If all you do is talk about what the characters’ do, you’re writing a movie. Even if the character is a laconic ex-marine war vet that is on a mission to save his daughter, he’s got a WORLD of thoughts going on in his head. The quieter people have more. Believe me. The louder people have plenty, too. Only vegetables in hospitals don’t have anything going on inside their heads, and (unless you’re really gifted) don’t make for much of a story.

3 thoughts on “Visual vs Cerebral

  1. My creative writing teacher was always big on writing out the inner thought process of characters, and I agree it makes for a richer reading experience, but I must admit that I thought your post would take a different direction completely.

    When I saw the title, I thought you would be discussing the type of language used by most authors today; visual language that is very simple vs. cerebral language that is more complex. I don’t read many current books since their language tends to be too simple. I really love authors who can take full advantage of words, who create lyrical sentences that are almost musical when you read them. What are your thoughts?

    • Most beginner writers don’t even touch lyrical-quality works. In fact, most of my early writing came from poetry adaptations I painstakingly drew into novels. The hurdle most cerebral writers run into is the market and marketability.

      While I usually agree–poetic, lyrical, complex narratives are more vivid–most of the market doesn’t. Now I write only fantasy, and I’ve been fighting a fantasy market, so this might be different for, say, thrillers or romance, but it’s incredibly difficult–nearly impossible–to write a story using complex language and get anyone to touch it. Just like most markets, the product that appeals to the most people is the product most sought after. The bottom line for these publishing companies is money. Always. Especially in this economy.

      Whether the writing style is cerebral or visual also has a lot to do with the writer’s focus: does he wish to write for the masses or for a specific group or for himself? Tolkien never intended his work to gain such popularity, and Lovecraft has only just recently come to the forefront of the occult genre (after nearly 75 years of enduring in the dark). If one spends years honing a craft such as biology, then writes about a biologist who discovers a new fish that can, I don’t know, cure cancer, one better keep the writing simple enough for average people to understand, or only publish it in the biology community.

      Someone once told me the average US reader prefers prose from a second grade level of writing.

      Of course, there’s always exceptions to the rule. If one writes simply to write, without a major platform (like biology) behind him, one must go as “visual” as possible, simply because the vernacular is lost.

      Somewhere along the line, new writers got it stuck in their heads that a career in writing exists in a vacuum. They aren’t very well read, nor are they trained, and all they have to write about are the movies they liked most.

      Hope this answers your question? Haha ~x

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