Only describe the extraordinary

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Over the New Year I read a paragraph of Haruki Murakami‘s new novel 1Q84 (pg. 189 HB) and found a wonderful insight to improve my descriptive writing.

An older editor, Komatsu, gave a younger writer some advice on a piece of fiction he was we-writing:

“When you introduce things that readers have never seen before into a piece of fiction, you have to describe them with as much precision and in as much detail as possible. What you eliminate from fiction is the description of things that most readers have seen.”

There is nothing more sure to stop a person reading than if you describe an ordinary scene in a clinical manner. If it is just a room, call it that; a room, and leave the reader to fill in the blanks. But if the room is imperative to the story then describe it through the eyes and tilted perception of the mind of your narrator or character.

I’d love to read a literal translation of Marakami’s original dialogue for his character Kamatsu. Please comment if you find it?

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