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Gratuitous Sundries...Or Great Crafting...
I happened upon an interview with George R.R. Martin, at The Atlantic, and I was struck by a comment he made to Rachel Brown.
'How do you make decisions about the depictions of sexual violence that you include in your writing?'
'Well, I'm not writing about contemporary sex—it's medieval.
There's a more general question here that doesn't just affect sex or rape, and that's this whole issue of what is gratuitous? What should be depicted? I have gotten letters over the years from readers who don't like the sex, they say it's "gratuitous." I think that word gets thrown around and what it seems to mean is "I didn't like it." This person didn't want to read it, so it's gratuitous to that person. And if I'm guilty of having gratuitous sex, then I'm also guilty of having gratuitous violence, and gratuitous feasting, and gratuitous description of clothes, and gratuitous heraldry, because very little of this is necessary to advance the plot. But my philosophy is that plot advancement is not what the experience of reading fiction is about. If all we care about is advancing the plot, why read novels? We can just read Cliffs Notes'. (I've highlighted these portions)
'A novel for me is an immersive experience where I feel as if I have lived it and that I've tasted the food and experienced the sex and experienced the terror of battle. So I want all of the detail, all of the sensory things—whether it's a good experience, or a bad experience, I want to put the reader through it. To that mind, detail is necessary, showing not telling is necessary, and nothing is gratuitous'.
This comment stirred my thoughts a great deal! Why do I read? Is it only to get to the point - or do I read for the journey?
Readers may prefer one or the other - there's no wrong way to enjoy a story! But writers' styles vary when telling a story. I love the details! Martin's comments hit the nail on the head for me - both as a reader and as a writer. I enjoy the journey, and I want to experience the setting, feel the characters' emotions, laugh with them - at them - hope, cry, and cheer them along the way. As a writer, I strive with every new novel to capture more fully the sights, smells, emotions, and heart of the story and its characters. To offer not only a story - but an experience.
What is your reaction to George R.R. Martin's answer? Why do you read?