The shortest route between any two points is a straight line. It is efficient and quick. But it is rarely the most memorable. Efficiency doesn’t create impressions and memories. It doesn’t take an extra turn just see something beautiful. No, only the scenic route does that.
So much writing these days is the efficient, straight line route. It is quick and to the point. As a result it leaves little lasting impression on the memory. It tells us exactly how to get from point A to point B but fails to make the experience enjoyable. There is no scenery, no extra twist or turn to bring in some beauty.
When a writer plows through his plot to get to the climax of his story a reader is carried for a fast ride. It is a roller coaster: a few brief seconds of thrill followed by nothing but the vague impression that you just had fun. When a writer checks off his points and moves efficiently through his explanations the reader is handed a crisp clean outline of whys and how-tos but nothing else.
Writing the scenic route is taking the reader for a journey, not a ride. It turns something fun or informative into something breathtaking and memorable. Instead of plot being the thrill giver, the reader encounters powerful characters, moving metaphors, and descriptions that transport him to a different time and place. Instead of helpful points the reader finds turns of phrase that cement themselves to his brain (and maybe his heart) and life giving analogies.
The Scenic route is not a detour or a wrong turn unless it’s done badly. It is a route of memory and beauty that turns the mundane into the amazing.
So when you write look for those twist and turns that add life to the words. When you read seek out those works and those authors who are guides not taxi drivers. Read and write the scenic route.