There are many forms of narrative, and expertise in one can lend itself to improvement in another. The particular advice I refer to today is from the first time I participated in the 48 Hour Film Festival and our team were advised to ‘give credit to our audience’.
This piece of advice stuck with me, and has definitely influenced my writing – and reading – habits. There are many books I read where I skim through paragraphs or pages that I find boring, and since I’ve started writing, I’ve thought more and more about why those parts are boring.
This is where I made the link to our film advice: give credit to your audience. You see, our brains automatically search for links and associations between different images or ideas; we search for meaning and we quite easily read between the lines to infer information.
This means you don’t have to explain every single thought, emotion and action of the protagonist – it’s boring because the reader has already figured it out. We can tell from a paragraph or two – maybe a page at the most – that their life has been turned upside-down by this catastrophic and unforeseen event, do you really need to spend a whole chapter explaining it?
As the story develops, the reader’s knowledge of the character develops, too – you don’t have to explain everything at the start, but can give tidbits of information, and allow the depth of the character to build slowly in the reader’s imagination. It makes for challenging writing and fun reading – what’s to lose?
Next time you’re reading, think about the parts that you skip – and try to leave these out in your writing.