Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Do You Use The White Pages...er, Spaces?

When was the last time you picked up a book to read and became so overwhelmed by all the words on the pages you began to skim? That thick, dark block of text is hard to wade through, isn't it?

The use of white space is a lesser known structural writing device that is too often overlooked. We read all the time in writing craft books about plot, structure, characterization, and hooking the reader, but it is a rare occurrence to read about white space.

White space is something we need in our manuscripts. When we have pages and pages of narrative, we bore the reader. We need shorter paragraphs to help the reader process the story and keep them interested. It gives their eyes a break and keeps them jumping to the next paragraph.

You might think about having a "one sentence paragraph". This one sentence gives more of an impact when standing alone in the midst of white space.

A good way to keep more  white space in your story is to use dialogue within the narrative. This not only gives more white space, but increases the action and allows you to show who the character is, rather than tell about the character in the narrative. Plus, dialogue keeps the reader reading!

And that is what we writers want, right? That's why we write...to have people read our stories. So let the white space rule over your manuscripts and may the eyes of your readers soak in your beautiful prose.

Do you actively incorporate white space in your manuscripts? Or do you prefer more descriptive narratives?



Linda Kage said...

So true, so true. Lots of times when I'm reading a book, I'll find myself skipping the narrative to read only the dialogue. Usually I break up big paragraphs when I'm writing because I get bored when I have to re-read it to make revisions.

Hilary Wagner said...

I just finished The Somnambulist, by Johnathan Barnes, and he uses a lot of short and one line paragraphs. Great example of writing for more impact!

Great post!

xoxo -- Hilary

Mary Vee Storyteller said...

Your words have wisdom:)

Oddly enough, I learned to use white space writing most from blogging!

I applied this experience to my writing--what a difference!

Great post!

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

Linda! I know what you mean about getting bored with your own paragraphs! lol I guess it's good to know what to fix though! :)

Hilary, I've never read anything by Johnathan Barnes, but I do have an author I like to read that uses the one sentence paragraphs. I love it!

Mary, awe shucks! Me and my wisdom! I don't even remember how I cam up with this topic...I was struggling to find something! But isn't it true?

Krista Phillips said...

Love me some white space!!! I agree, I skim long narrative paragraphs. *yawn* Get to the action!

patti said...

If I like the writer i hate white space. Cram those pages full.

Am doing the same thing with my novels.Sigh. The Rhythm of Secrets, my third book, is the longest yet. Give me a chance, y'all!!!

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

Krista, you seem like an action kind of gal...er, except for this afternoon, which I hear you spent snoozing away with a nice little nap!

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

Patti! You are so funny! It can be LONG, but break it up so that there is a little white space around your words. The sentences closest to the white make more of an impact, so make those sentence have some power!

Heather Sunseri said...

I'm not sure I've written white space into my manuscript, but I know it's there. I agree, it's daunting to see long paragraph after paragraph. Like reading a textbook. B-O-R-I-N-G

Jeanette Levellie said...

Wonderful post, Sherrinda. I'd never thought of this before, but I do use a lot of one sentence paragraphs for emphasis.

I'm nearly done--whew!--with a book that is 99% narrative, and I have to force myself to finish it. The story is fine, but lack of showing instead of telling makes it drag.