cannonwrites (cannonwrites) wrote in yaknow,

Meeting the Reader Halfway

I was reading the Journal of Legal Education today and found an article that discussed the Iowa Writers' Workshop's philosophy for critiquing work.  Here's a quote (via from Tom Grime's memoir, Mentor, that describes what made me intrigued by the IWW method:

“[The professor] went directly to the blackboard and picked up a piece of chalk. He wrote: meaning, sense, clarity. Then he faced us. ‘If you don’t have these, you don’t have a reader. . . .The writer cocreates the text with the reader. If a writer gives the reader too much information, then the reader feels forced to accept whatever the writer says and eventually stops reading. If a writer gives the reader too little information, the reader feels compelled to search for whatever the writer says and eventually stops reading. So, you want to meet the reader halfway.’ ”

I love this idea of a writer meeting the reader halfway--trusting the reader enough to give the outlines without filling in every little detail.  An intelligent writer will find just the right words to give the sense of the thing in her brain.  The reader will enjoy piecing together the clues to create a whole image in her mind.

I'm reading a novel right now that keeps saying things like "He knew he liked her because of x, y, and z."  These details irritate me.  After reading the IWW cocreation theory, I realize that this author doesn't trust me or his writing enough to allow me to draw those conclusions for myself.

It's the old show, don't tell, but with more precision.  Show just enough.  Let the reader figure out the rest.

Now, if I can just figure out what "enough" means...

Tags: details, lisa ritter cannon, sdt

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