They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Writers know they lie.
A picture may tell a story, but one word leads to a thousand pictures and a treasury of memories and images.
All I have to do is say ‘childhood home’, and your eyes glaze over as time rolls away and you see a parade of ghosts, some happy, some painful but all enthralling. You can be lost for hours in the tidal wash of two words.
A few thousand words can create an entire universe or multiverses. Writers have been doing it for years – cinema has yet to catch up. In the word universes there are no boundaries at all – no restrictions of time or space, budget, special effects or locations. There is only one limitation and that is insurmountable – the writer’s imagination.
I tried my hand at script writing for a while, but it’s just not the same. Everyone and their chauffeur and their cat has something to say about what goes into a script. In a novel the writer decides and may adapt according to editors and publishers, but it’s always the writer’s voice and the writers words.
Movies did not invent pictures, writers did. A story is a carefully coded structure designed to set off an avalanche of image and feeling in the reader, to take over completely so that the reader loses track of time and space.
Writers know that we are in the picture making business but our currency is words, the most powerful and never devalued of all currencies. Even a movie cannot be made without a script and how effective will it be without dialog? Looking at two characters together is not enough, you need their conversation. The words lead to the ocean of images. Where would it be without words?
It’s the other way around, backwards as usual. Words are worth a million pictures. A picture may evoke a feeling or a train of thought, but it’s the words of great stories which take you deep into a fictional ocean, overwhelm and surround you and will not let you out until the end.
And the readers know this too. That is why they keep coming back for more.