A Writer’s Quote Series: Episode One
Stephen King is an author who needs no introduction. He has entertained millions of readers and inspired several generations of authors over his long and prolific career (me being one of them!).
I have seen many quotes of his over the years, but I recently came across this one and it made my writer self stand at attention:
“Description begins in the writer’s imagination, but should finish in the reader’s.”
I like this quote for several reasons.
A Two-Way Street
I appreciate the reminder that writers and readers share a two-way street. Writers do not write for their words to simply bounce around in a vacuum; they need readers to make the process complete.
To me, the word “imagination” makes this quote shine. King could have said, “Description begins in the writer’s mind…,” but he didn’t. The word imagination stresses the creative and playful nature of a writer’s job while reminding us that readers have imaginations, too.
We, as writers, should not belittle our audience by thinking they can’t fill in a few blanks or embellish a narrow description on their own. We should trust that they can take a loose description from the page and make it full and rich in their imagination.
The beauty is, if we allow the reader space to expand on our descriptions, their interpretation of our work becomes very personal because they pull from their past and weave their own experiences into our story.
Our story becomes their story.
If we writers give too much detail, we rob our readers of the joy of participation. And we want engaged readers, right?
I’d love to know what this Stephen King quote means to you, so leave me a comment below!
K. Kris Loomis is the author of the new nonfiction book, Surviving Revision: How One Writer Finished What She Started. She has also written several books on yoga and meditation, as well as a travel memoir about the time she, her husband, and their handicapped cat moved to Ecuador.
When Kris isn’t writing at her standing desk, she can be found playing chess, folding an origami crane, or practicing a Bach French Suite on the piano. She lives in Rock Hill, SC with her husband and two cats.