Saturday, May 21, 2011

you leave out all the right things

Transitions are usually not that interesting. I use space breaks instead, and a lot of them. A space break makes a clean segue whereas some segues you try to write sound convenient, contrived. The white space sets off, underscores, the writing presented, and you have to be sure it deserves to be highlighted this way. If used honestly and not as a gimmick, these spaces can signify the way the mind really works, noting moments and assembling them in such a way that a kind of logic or pattern comes forward, until the accretion of moments forms a whole experience, observation, state of being. The connective tissue of a story is often the white space, which is not empty. There’s nothing new here, but what you don’t say can be as important as what you do say. I think my favorite compliment that I got from a writer early on was someone saying to me, You leave out all the right things. That was wonderful to hear. To know you’ve given your reader credit for being able to understand without you having to say it. In “In the Cemetery Where Al Jolson Is Buried,” when the narrator heads for the gift shop to buy her dying friend a gift, the sick girl says to get her anything, anything but a magazine subscription. No need to explain why.