Here’s an important writing concept that gets overlooked regularly by many fiction writers. Readers need virtual blank spaces. They need breathing room. Your readers aren’t researching the microbes of your work, they are waiting for a good ride, looking at you to provide the vehicle.
If you give this idea some thought, you’ll realize that your readers want to fill in some of the blanks. They expect it, within reason. Reading is an interactive process. The reader spontaneously forms mental pictures from your words, images that carry him or her along the story line. Those mental pictures are personal creations based upon your words. A good writer wants the reader to keep those pictures flowing, one after another; to keep them interesting and alive.
Readers of fiction need just enough detail to help them form those mental images with a sense of reality. That means you must give the reader more than an outline but less than the finely-grained detail of a perfect landscape photograph. The goal is to get your reader to participate in the story line in a fun and meaningful way. A hint of mystery goes a long way.
Giving the reader some breathing room is a balancing act, and one that is created differently by each writer. That’s what makes for a unique writing style, among other elements. When you introduce a character, make him or her sufficiently real to be interesting and entertaining but not so detailed as to be rigid and inflexible. Allow your reader some breathing room to give that character some of the reader’s unique perspectives. In other words, let your reader help create some of the qualities of that character so that the reader feels close and involved with him or her.
The same technique works for locations, scenes, background characters and much more. Yes, you must be sufficiently detailed to create interesting, powerful characters and scenes. But, you must also allow your reader to participate in the creative process itself. If you do so, your readers will consider your work a real “page turner” because they have become an important, involved part of the process. The goal is to not just keep your reader’s attention but to get him or her involved in the story line, truly involved.
So, find that balance between detail and breathing room for your readers. It will take some time to work out the formula because it must be unique to you. That’s what makes for style and keeps your readers turning those pages.