Think about the last time you told someone a story. Let’s say it was about your trip this winter to the beaches of southwest Florida. You told them the parts you needed to tell them in order for them to get a sense of what you experienced. And as they listened, they developed a picture in their mind of what you were telling them. There was a lot of detail that you simply didn’t provide. You couldn’t have. There is too much. There were sensations and smells, urges and observations that you lived which could never be translated in retelling the events, if into words at all.
When you told your story, you left almost everything out.
It is a fiction writer’s job – to give reader just enough to create an illusion of experience while leaving nearly everything out. So what do you leave in? You leave in just enough that your reader will sense the rest. If you go too far your reader will see you on the page trying to control their experience. The result will be disastrous for the story.
There wasn’t a cloud in the sky, the waves were breaking in long lines down the shore and the water was coming up the sand and there was foam and the cutest little tiny shells caught up in it. You could see the water soak in and out of the sand and it was soft on our feet and the breeze was warm. And the water was blue-green and felt cool between our toes. The water was really breaking a lot harder on the jetty. But up by us it was soft and relaxing.
Now read this.
The sea was at its very best, lines of foam kissing the beach, the breeze lazing with us in the sun.
Which tells the story in a way that leaves you wanting more? That draws you in?
Yep, it’s the one that leaves almost everything out.