Think Somerset Maugham, Dickens, Hardy, Austen, Dostoyevsky, Rand,Chekhov, and more.
These doyens of literature took their time to draw the reader into the story. They drew out the situation like a piece of soft toffee and the audience was gradually pulled in by the characters.
Audiences today want their reading entertainment as quick as three minute noodles. Do they still want to wait for something to happen? We are told to grab the reader in the first 100 words and keep them on the hook.
What about cajoling them, teasing them just enough? Or perhaps lulling them with luxurious language, deep velvety phrases and the hint of big ideas.
A series of short stories I am writing follow in the footsteps of S. Maugham. They draw the reader in by the first 130 odd words and then with an empathetic phrase I hope the reader is intrigued enough, and cares enough to carry on.
Martin Swinburne liked the sound of his own voice. He was a short man with bland features and a thinning head of blonde hair that he judiciously combed over a growing bald patch. His mouth contained less than was God given teeth, which were yellowing and congregated at the front.
From the moment Martin found he was always on the outer of the 'in' crowd he had been trying to get 'in'. So, in his efforts, he espoused on every and any subject without so much as a small modicum of knowledge. But, for all his 'attributes' the one that most remembered Mr. Swinburne to his neighbours, acquaintances and family was that after 40 years of marriage he could still make his wife cry.
Maugham has the ability to paint a vivid picture of his main characters. He sets them up with such ease we feel we know them and their foibles, so it comes as no surprise when they act true to character. His genius is giving a twist to the tale that comes out of left field. All this is done with slow, deliberate writing and good manners.
Dostoyevsky's short stories have a great amount of back story up front. Yet this doesn't detract from the read as we find the motive for the protagonist becomes clearer if we know his history. It is like being let in on the family album or the dark secret.
Dickens teases us with open ended statements that will only be qualified when we read on.
Will the reader today put up with plodding? Should we write for the audience and their attention span or write to give the story depth, meaning and write like we are painting in oils with a richness of words and ideas. I fancy the latter will keep the reader talking long after the book is finished.
Good writing will always shine and the effort (if that is the right word) will be worth it.
Some may use words like persevere, but if the story is sharp, the writing smart and the characters believable then the read although 'hard' should be a worthwhile exercise.
Some of the award winners in the past have given us a hint of this writing,
Arundhati Roy, The life of Pi Yann Martel, with thought and detail described with deliberate care.
So should we write in the style of manners that these greats have employed over the years?
Is there an audience for expansive writing?
One could only hope so.