Writing Tip #10
“Leave room for the reader.”
— Michael Weaver —
With so much time being invested in writing a narrative and developing characters, one of the most important elements of any story ( and perhaps the most important) can easily be overlooked. Although few people realize it outside of the writing world, the reader plays an instrumental role in all forms of storytelling.
Truth be told, whether you are writing a book, play, speech, or poem, you are essentially writing for some type of audience - what I shall refer to as the "reader". Most writers are aware that they are writing for someone else, leading to certain choices regarding structure and language.
However, there is at least one more level that I like to think of when I am writing - not just writing "to a reader", but "leaving room for the reader". What exactly do I mean by this? It's actually quite simple, "don't tell your readers everything, let them work to figure things out by themselves."
If it's one thing that I know about my audience, it's that they aren't the type of people who like to be spoon-fed - they want the time and space to figure things out for themselves. This means withholding certain key bits of information from them, and possibly even letting their assumptions lead them in the "wrong" direction so that they can be surprised later on.
Just as an awareness of time can help take your writing in new directions, so will an awareness of the information flow throughout your writing. I have found these techniques to be potent insulators against writer's block as well. Asking questions such as "How much do they need to know about this?", "What facets of the character should I hide or leave undefined?", "How clearly should I define the setting?" leaves room for the reader while allowing your story to breathe.
By leaving room for your reader, you are consciously setting the stage for a very personal experience - one where your story becomes "their story" as well!