As a writer, the most valuable thing I’ve learned from reading Carroll is the efficiency of very basic descriptive imagery and the importance having trust in the mind of the reader. Like any writer I have a tendency to be superfluous, when I edit my stories I spend most of the time trimming the fat, but I do still like the narrative to be thick and juicy. I think that’s why I was so uncomfortable when I first began reading Alice, the prose was just so… basic, “The rabbit was white, it ran, it jumped down a whole, Alice jumped after it,” (please know that is not a direct quotation.) If it was me, describing that sequence would have been a few paragraphs, I would have wanted to make sure the reader was really paying attention and knew every detail, every sense that the characters was feeling, because the moment was so important. But Carroll? Pfft, he knows you can read, the rabbit jumped down the whole, there you go. It’s the most magical image of the nineteenth century, but the magic wasn’t written from Carroll’s quill, it came from our minds.
He knew it was captivating, and fussing over the moment would have been a distraction. I think it is a very modern practice for literature not to trust in the reader’s imagination, but instead to describe every single little detail, perhaps a trend originating from the television and film industry surrounding us in imagery all the time, books are often written as though they have to replicate these in language format, but they don’t, they’re stories.
At the same time, I feel that as a writer I am very descriptive at heart, and it comes from an honest place, so who knows how this revelation will effect my work. Though I don’t think I will directly make an active decision against it, understanding a new perspective of artistry is an enriching experience that I always enjoy.
(This is an excerpt from The Artistic Intention behind ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’.)