The More You Know

Rather than canon balling into the deep end of my new job, I feel like I’ve gradually eased into it. If I haven’t said (or you don’t remember), I’m a copywriter now. (When I’m talking to people, I always stop and spell it, because they usually think I’m talking about copyrighting.) So I write advertisements, descriptions, announcements, and other various things that don’t have my name attached to them.

Initially, everyone wanted to set me loose and let me write whatever without giving me anything besides the basic directions. I think the idea was to see what I’m capable of.

It made me feel like I’d been left in a dark room trying to do a paint-by-number—a room too dark for me to see what colors I had, but light enough to see the numbers. Needless to say, I didn’t like this very much. So I asked a lot of questions, about tone, context, background, and whatever else seemed relevant to whatever I was trying to write about.

Eventually I came against the response, “Oh, you don’t need to say anything about that.” Of course not, I only have enough space for three sentences. But I DO need to know about it. I feel like the more I know about whatever I’m trying to write about, the better I can write about it—even if I never use even half of what I know in my copy.

I feel like this applies to all writing. The more you know about the world you’re creating and the characters in your stories, the more realistic they become. Everyday conversations are suffused with little allusions to some story or event that took place either a few days ago or several years ago. We have inside jokes, continuations of old conversations, and someone who’s new to the group won’t understand everything. In a sense, a reader is a person who’s new to the conversation of the story. Now, every piece of dialogue shouldn’t be filled with allusions to the characters’ histories that’s never developed, but we like seeing little hints of backstory that ignite our imaginations so that we either want to know more or we want to make up the story ourselves (a good example would be “Just like Budapest all over again, right?” and “You and I remember Budapest very differently!”).

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