Monday, October 5, 2015

N is for Nothin

Ana muses about white space on the page.

Do readers' eyes glaze over when they turn the page and see solid blocks of type? Do they skim over long, detailed descriptions of setting or introspection? Do they read every word of a character's soliloquy?

The authors of Self-Editing for Fiction Writers say, "Dialogue adds white space, or at least it should. So when you reread a scene or chapter, be on the lookout for places where your characters make little speeches to one another. In formal dialogue, characters often string together four or five complete, well-formed sentences. In real life, few of us get that far without interruption. So break your dialogue up, write in more give-and-take between your characters, have your characters interrupt one another --and themselves.

"Mechanical decisions about the length of your scenes or chapters can give you more control over your story. Brief scenes or even brief chapters can add to your story's tension, and longer chapters can give it a more leisurely feel. Scenes and chapters have a rhythm.

"That rhythm should not be unvaried. Some writers tend to fall into a rut. And in some cases, the steady rhythm of similarly sized scenes or chapters can reinforce a story's steady forward momentum. But if the scene or chapter length remains steady while the tension of the story varies considerably you are passing up the chance to reinforce the tension your story is depending on."


  1. Good post, Ana. Particularly the part about chapter lengths because I always keep mine about the same. I'm shall watch this in future.

  2. All of these things effect pacing, Ana, you're right. Definitely something to watch.

  3. Agree about the lack of white space being a big turn-off, also about varying the pace. Varying sentence length and construction can also help to sped up or slow down the pace. One thing I like about Autocrit is that it highlights areas where sentences are all the same length.

  4. I didn't know that about Autocrit, Paula.

    1. It's a great auto-editing programme, Ana. I couldn't survive without it now.

  5. I agree that white space is super important. Pages and pages of words and paragraphs margin to margin can be very intimidating and overwhelming.

  6. It's all been said: page after page of solid type is intimidating and daunting.

  7. Pages look different to me in print books and on e-readers. The white space seems whiter in ebooks.

  8. Excellent post! I agree that white space helps with pacing and makes reading easier. Whenever I see blocks of dialogue or narrative, I skim.