Writing the Empty Spaces

My next oldest sister is seven years my senior.  She always, for as long as I can remember, wanted to be an artist, and studied art with a passion.  Granted, that isn’t the most lucrative of pursuits, but who am I to point at the fleck in her eye?  I’m a writer.

Because of my sister’s passion for art, I was introduced to a great book on drawing at around the age of 13.  I can’t remember the exact title, but I think it was Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain.

It detailed a method of drawing where the artist sketches the free spaces around an object rather than the object itself.  Suffice it to say, I was no good at sketching, a fact I determined within just a few days of practicing these methods.  But that lesson has stuck with me all these years, and I believe it applies to writing as much as to charcoal sketches.

As a fictioneer, I want my reader to visualize every detail of my story.  This too is a passion.  Unfortunately, it’s a passion that often leads to a problem, one I see in new writers’ work everyday.  They have a hard time letting even one moment of the protagonist’s life pass unremarked.  Rather than breaking up scenes with a line space or switching to a new chapter, these enthusiastic authors detail how characters wait 20 minutes for the bus to arrive, or follow them across the castle from one important meeting to another.  They have no capacity for reader assumptions–something readers find disrespectful.

That’s where writing around the subject comes into play.  Instead of detailing every moment of everyday, it’s better to let the reader infer mundane details.  After a romantic dinner, the MC heads home, a smile on his face…and that’s it.  Start the next scene with the next important event.  Readers are smart people.  They don’t need to be told that Harry drove home in the dark, or that he drives a Civic because he finds Acuras pretentious (well, maybe that last part could point to character development, but you see what I mean).  Harry got home after the date.  The next important thing that happens–Suzzane calling to let him know she never wants to see him again–is the next scene and it can be started right, freaking now!  Because I want to know how she interpreted their date so differently from Harry, not how Harry flosses his teeth, or sits on his couch flipping through channels.

All this boils down to one main point: get to the action, tie it up as fast as the narrative will allow, and then exit.  No shilly-shallying, no dilly-dallying, let’s have a drink of it now!


— david j.


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