There is an element in writing fiction that is invisible to readers (if the craftsman is successful) but is at the very heart of the process for writers.
As we write there are decisions to be made at every turn – thousands of them both large and small. Among these decisions are several significant ones of approach – what to reveal to the reader, what to reveal to the various characters, and what to reveal to all involved?*
We know that the reader will only be truly satisfied if they know more than the characters do about what is happening on the page. The reader is always in the room and wants the inside scoop. The writer had better not forget to treat the reader as the silent, ever-present observer.
Here is an example. If I want to focus a reader’s attention or emotions more on one character than another, that character needs to open up and become vulnerable to the reader. This will be most effective if this character is then also guarded toward the other characters. This will make the reader feel like they are inside the story, a part of what is happening on the page.
So there is craft to be done. We must ensure that the reader is kept central to the telling of the story. And we must all the while make sure the reader doesn’t see us on-stage managing the illusion.
*There are other aspects of the story – contexts, histories, maybe even motivations and relationships – that don’t make it onto the page at all. The writer must know more of the story than ends up on the page, otherwise the story will feel flimsy and lacking in depth.