“Careful! The square block goes there!”
“I know. Put down the megaphone.”
This kind of hand-holding is apparently the mark of a novice writer. Limited to a scene, it often takes the form of telling rather than showing.
Bad: She could see in his penetratingly awesome eyes that he loved her.
Worse: It was clear that he really loved her. “Kiss me, baby,” he said, throwing his arms wide.
Please, DO NOT tell how your character is feeling. Show it. Be subtle—especially when tackling something as multi-faceted and unique-to-character as love. Oh, and as a rule, try not to use the word “love” when writing about it.
On the scale of an entire novel, the concept of “leaving space” applies to your characters’ development. This means that you are (or should be) revealing backstory in pieces—carefully calculated bits that give readers the exact amount of information they need in order to understand what they are witnessing. No more. No less.
This also means that you are (or should be) giving us hints to your characters’ endpoints—exactly what will they be like by the end of the book? How will they change (or not change)? Watching this evolution should be exciting for the reader, and surprises are welcome. Some genres dictate a specific endpoint for characters, but that doesn’t mean you can’t shake it up on the way there or challenge the troupes of your genre.
Remember, it is your job to entertain. If you are standing next to me and shouting in my face that your character, Bob, is feeling lonely, desperate, and is about to do something very, very bad…I’m sorry. I’m just not as interested as if I just saw a figure with a flash of silver in her hand disappear into the darkness. I want to follow that character. In her story, there is space for me to breathe. And a reason to follow.
Do you struggle to leave space for the reader to inhabit?
Also, have you read any books that strike that perfect balance, pulling us along with the promise of learning more?
Michelle Joyce Bond