Assumption–A Writer’s Enemy

In my classes, I often remind students that one of the most difficult aspects of writing a scene is to give the reader the same experience you see/hear/taste/touch/smell etc. on the inside of your head. Many scenes which fail to grab the reader are lacking because the writer made assumptions. To assume the reader knows what the character is like, knows the motivation or even the setting is often too large a stretch. How can you help your reader to fully experience your scenes?
Writing Tip for Today:

  • First you need to know your characters, settings and motivations better than anyone. Poor fiction is often the result of shallow or misunderstood characters. Even if you don’t write about your character’s fear of water, for instance, you need to know the fear exists.
  • After you draft a scene, revise with concrete sensory detail in mind. We feel many things without talking about them. Adding CSD may help the reader buy into the situation. You know what Uncle Oscar looks like, acts like. Be sure your reader does too.
  • Pay attention to pace. Just because there are 100 things in a scene to describe doesn’t mean you ought to include every one of them. Remember cinematic thinking–don’t slow down for back story or other descriptions if the scene calls for running like a bat out of you-know-where.

Try This!
Take a look at a scene you are drafting. Have you made assumptions? What are they? Are there places you might be more specific? Revise using the information above.

About Linda S. Clare

I'm an author, speaker, writing coach and mentor. I teach both fiction and nonfiction writing at Lane Community College and in the doctoral program as expert writing advisor for George Fox University. I love helping writers improve their craft and I'm both an avid reader and writer of stories about those with wounded hearts.

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