Your whole novel takes place in your head. As easy as it can be to forget that fact, you (dear, Writers), must remember that your reader cannot get into your head and see where people are moving around.
While it seems obvious that the events you narrate in your novel must take place in some space, it can be amazingly easy to forget. With a line of summarizing transition, you can seamlessly sweep a character across a room or a galaxy. But in reality, the reader’s mind can’t always keep up. The reader can get lost in the jump.
Poor descriptions of space can leave your reader lost in the character’s house, bumping into walls or walking through them. You can even leave your reader at another location when you forget to mention that the character got out of the car, or left the lakeside, or went into the casino.
Writing tip of the day: Remember to write in space
Write the space into your scene, and write the characters in that space. It doesn’t mean you have to describe every step they take through their entire journey, but it does mean that, like a film director setting up a shot, you need to create an atmosphere around your characters based on their interactions with the spaces in their lives.
It does mean that you need to make sure that the room stays consistent and that the reader moves with the character. Think of it like a camera lens — as the writer, you are like a film director. It is the director’s job to see what the viewer is going to see: that is why they stand behind the camera or watch the viewing screen during filming; it’s why they oversee the special effects; it’s why they make their first cut along with the editors.
As a novelist, you get to do one better; you get to put your readers into the minds of your characters. You put the reader into their memory, into their history, into their desires. The director (and the screenwriter) is limited (always) to the exterior, but the novelist goes where no one else can: into the heart.
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