I take the last post back. At least somewhat.
The implication — at least in my mind — is that the writer is the sole caretaker of this fictional “reality”. I’ve realized over the past couple of days that this isn’t entirely true. Although a novel’s reality can’t exist without the writer, it also can’t exist without the reader. This is an extremely important point, I think, especially if you subscribe to the view that reading is an active rather than passive activity. (And I do.)
I believe this. Yes, the writer writes or creates a world. But the reader interprets that world in a way that makes sense to him or her. Especially in this day and age — instead of 25 Dickensian pages about a mountain view, today’s minimalist writer simply suggests the peak, the valley, and the picnic table the characters are sitting at, and the reader fills in the rest.
But that doesn’t take the pressure off the writer — in fact, I think it puts even more pressure. You have even fewer words now to suggest the scene and mood and characterization, so you have to do it subtly and precisely. And if scene plays heavily in the plot at that particular moment, you need to choose your words with great care if you are going to get your own vision firmly thorned into the reader’s imagined landscape.
It doesn’t have to be a handicap though — at least I don’t take it that way. In fact it’s a great benefit knowing that with some carefully chosen hydraulic touches, you can get your reader to do most of the heavy lifting in exactly the direction you want them to do it with as few words as possible.
That’s the theory, anyway.