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[Overwriting versus underwriting] Imagination: how does it work in the brain?

Discussion in 'Research' started by Leonardo Pisano, Aug 29, 2020.

  1. Leonardo Pisano

    Leonardo Pisano Scribe

    Oftentimes, beginning writers overwrite, putting too much details, exposition and explanations in their projects. The other side of the spectrum is underwriting: not enough detail let the reader float in space. Overwriting is usually easy to spot. Underwriting is usually not so easy in that to put your finger on. Whatever, the obvious question is how to find the "right" balance, if there is such thing at all in the first place.

    Does anyone know about research done on this subject? I can find neurological articles on how the brain works, but haven't find any on how the mind works while reading a work of fiction. Maybe I use the wrong terminology. Any hints would be much appreciated.
    S.T. Ockenner likes this.
  2. Insolent Lad

    Insolent Lad Maester

    I can only say that I tend to underwrite. Once I've written out a scene, 'fixed' it in my imagination, so to speak, I start coming up with details that can be added. Having words on the page suggest more words (and ideas) to me. Some would probably still say my writing is a tad sparse.

    But the same could be said of more than a few well-regarded 'classic' authors of the past. Besides the obvious Hemingway. For me, Kipling managed about the perfect balance but others might want more or less.
  3. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

    I haven't seen anything on this topic exactly. But I've seen research on learning new skills and specifically on being creative.

    Loosely speaking the best way to learn new skills is to learn just enough to "self-edit" and then practice. As you get better you add to the list of things you self-edit for. What that means for writing prose is up to interpretation. But for instance, you might start by self-editing for clarity, and then flow or momentum (i.e., strong verbs, varied sentence structure, etc.), and then focusing on details, dialogue, or deeper POV.

    As for being creative, the general advice is to push yourself, experiment, try doing more. You can trim excess much faster than you can push and draw out what isn't there. It's easy to understand what that means for prose. If you "overwrite" a lot, you're learning more, and if it's awkward it's easy enough to trim later. But if you're constantly underwriting, it becomes harder to push the boundaries. Purple prose may not be good to read, but it's good for a writer's learning.
  4. Leonardo Pisano

    Leonardo Pisano Scribe

    Interesting angle, Devor. I know the creative part of the brain is the right side, and the rational part of iot is mainly the left side. There is a very interesting experiment if you try to draw a face e.g. from a photograph. It is done much easier if the picture is put upside down. The reason given for it is that then the brain doesn't see it as a face, but as lines to be drawn only ...
  5. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

    Pulling back from your writing, letting it sit in a drawer or on the computer for a couple months or more, lets you come back to it with fresh eyes. Your reading experience will be closer to a new reader's experience. What is too much or too little will stand out a bit better.

    This is interesting, and I believe it. Probably, this relates to what I just wrote. The familiar form of a face is destroyed when it's turned upside down. The lines then become an objective fact stripped of this subjectivity that happens with pattern recognition. Similarly, setting a piece of writing to the side for a couple or three months allows you to "forget" the prose you wrote. (Even if you remember the story and events, the prose itself probably didn't stick in your mind as well.) So you come back to your writing, and it's like seeing that drawing of a face upside-down.
  6. Leonardo Pisano

    Leonardo Pisano Scribe

    For people who are interested in drawing. my wisdom is taken from Betty Edwards in her book Drawing on the right side of the brain. I believe a pdf of the book can be found on the web. There are also YouTube clips available.

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