Thursday, June 2, 2011


I know this isn't really the Parallax View, but if one of the things you have to suffer when writing narrative is the release of information -- that is you know a story has to contain certain things -- what you sweat over is initially the order in which everything comes out. Your protagonist is a kid. Should you mention he's good to his parents and has a dog before you mention he's robbing banks? That probably makes a difference. And there's other information: shirt color vs. how tall he is -- whose ordering actually has no import.

Then the alchemy begins: information that's crucial to the story can, when you have enough there already, not be mentioned at all. That Hemingway riff: "For sale, baby shoes, never worn," the rest of the story comes into your head without needing the rest. The point is in trusting the contract between reader and yourself. The contract is harder every day there's an internet, because the synapses used to fire off those particular connections are now keeping multiple windows open and seeing if anyone hot has emailed you. (You kids off my lawn. Now.)

Further, people tend to read differently. You can mention someone's Liberty of London tie 800 times and some readers will have the association you want, others will hold the character up to a totally different set of prejudices and many won't have a clue what it means.

And the current issue: there's what you know now and what you knew then and all the opinions that happened in between.

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