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  • Lance Mannion
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Thanks, Lance.


Funny, thing about your use of white space, Lance, is that it's what attracted me to your blog. It always seemed to be breezy, not dense, because the spacing created an illusion of compactness per paragraph that I translated as an efficiency to your writing.

I guess it really did trick me into thinking that your posts would be a quick read.

c cobb

For screenwriters, negative space is a huge part of both the job and the art of it.

Part of that is just the design of each page in a script. It also helps with the flow of the read, so that each page can be read in about a minute.

And of course it's part of the toolkit we use to keep Hwd execs interested enough to actually read the thing.


There's a metaphorical negative space as well, in what we leave to the reader's imagination. The more tightly we describe our main character, the less the reader will identify. The more detailed a monster is physically, the less frightening. The less we say, the more we leave room for the reader to customize to their own particular hopes and dreams.

Ken Muldrew

I wonder if it's worth thinking about writing and printing as separate; white space on a page being a negative space for printing, but not for writing. In other words, is it possible to put negative space into unformatted ascii text?

Because the writer controls the reader's inner voice, a negative space can't simply be the absence of text since the reader will simply stop paying attention. A reader doesn't want to stop to wonder why the writer hasn't resolved a particular issue at some point in the text because they don't know if the resolution might come in the next paragraph (unless a book is intentionally written for second, third, and multiple readings).

Something like negative space can be put in by hand (the curious incident of the dog barking in the night) but that is rather crude (since it involves a positive exposition of a negative). In song lyrics one is often led to anticipate a lyric that doesn't appear (e.g. in the Beatles' Benefit of Mr. Kite one hears in their head that "tonight Mr. Kite is going to fall rather than that he's topping the bill; or the Barenaked Ladies' song Brian Wilson where they sing, "Call it impulsive, call it compulsive, call it insane. But when I'm surrounded I just can't stop." and in the gap that follows you can't help but fill in, "the pain").

It's a bit harder to think of an example of negative space in straight prose. Sometimes I feel a rhythm develop within a passage that only becomes apparent when it's broken but I can't remember any particular examples at the moment. I distinctly remember thinking that Hunter S. Thompson had deliberately done this in some of his writing, but it's been ages since I've read anything by him.

Ken Muldrew

Damnation, I thought I closed that tag.

MikeT has a good point. Alan Furst is quite explicit about his attempts to create atmosphere by leaving out detail in his novels.


Actually, Lance, Charles Bukowski wrote a piece precisely on this topic.

Didn't he, Jennifer? ;-)

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