Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Space Bar

Blue Man.

Ed Gant.

Konrath (see sidebar) mentioned it months ago.

White space.

Keeping the paragraphs short. Not stalling the eye with a lump, a block of print. Visual space makes for pace.

Notice the Slush Pile Diva drops down the same advice. Seems she's apt to drop a submission back in the slush pile if there's not enough white space, not matter how good your intro.

Also related, Fiction Scribe discusses paragraph breaks in Pet-Peeve #15.
Particulary the need for them when writers, in an attempt to avoid dialogue tags, crowd too much action with speech. Like a dance floor in a small bar.
Her other peeves make good reading too.
The eyes have it.
The space bar is a good place to hang out and strip down.


Anonymous said...

If the industry is favoring white space, that's wonderful news for me. My writing has become tight and spare. It's worlds apart from where I was 2 years ago. If anything, I need to go back in revisions and add a bit more to round it out.

I'll pick up books today and think, man, trim that down! That's when I start to wonder if I've taken it too far.

Ric said...

Reading those comments make one wonder if the basic rules of composition have somehow been lost.

Bernita said...

I feel the same way, Jason! And find myself going back and adding more flesh.
Don't think they mean spare writing exactly - just breaking it into shorter pieces.Allowing some sentences to stand alone. Does have a certain visual impact and emphasis.
In some ways, while it may make for faster visuals, it may make for slower thought.(Not sure that makes sense, though!)

The rules of composition many of us learned, Ric, applied to non-fiction - the tidy paragraphs of collected points, the logic of argument and summation.

spyscribbler said...

A very good point! Over at Murderati, they were just lamenting our shorter attention spans. I think this is another manifestation of the same problem. It's our society; better to join them than fight a losing battle.

(In my instance, that would be better to join me, LOL ...)

spyscribbler said...

Oopsy, that was Killer Year, not Murderati. LOL.

Ric said...

Just because you write fiction does not mean you ignore simple construction rules like a separate paragraph for each speaker in dialogue.
and, no, I don't have problems with inventivness, experimentents, etc.
I was responding to Fiction Scribe's pet peeve #15. And it does contribute to white space on the page.

Bernita said...

Not sure it's really a case of shorter attention spans,Natasha, or else nothing over 50,000 words would be printed, but perhaps our bullet point generation seems to relate long paragraphs with turgid writing.

Bernita said...

Ah, sorry, Ric, I missed your point.
Her peeve is well taken.

EA Monroe said...

Thanks for the interesting links, Bernita. At first I was bothered by "white space" -- thinking, "oh no!" short attention spans and the rising rates of illiteracy.

I read the articles and I see that you and Ric have taken care of the points concerning "construction rules."

Since I was on my way out the door to get "smashed," I'll have one White Space Smoothie to go with a cherry on top. Hah!

Bonnie Calhoun said...

Auh yes...the return key is your friend!

That's one of the reasons why I love ellipses also!

Sam said...

I did want to comment, but I got sidetracked by your links, lol.
To fleshy and the writing is hard to get through. Too much white space and I guess it doesn't catch our imagination.
It's a tightrope act.

raine said...

Yes, yes, I suppose it's true...
(and yes, yes, there's a slight frown in there...).

But--and I'm taking this to an extreme--I have this idea that a paragraph should simply be as long as necessary. When I read, I expect paragraphs of differing lengths, like sentences. It contributes to the flow of the story.
Pages and pages of long paragraphs will put me to sleep--but endless pages of short, staccato paragraphs don't work for me either.
Fiction Scribe made some excellent points, though.

Anonymous said...

In some ways, while it may make for faster visuals, it may make for slower thought.(Not sure that makes sense, though!)

Bernita, I think I know what you mean. If you blow through spare, direct text, it breaks apart in the brain. It's too fast to process. However, if you slow down a bit, the impact of spare writing really blossoms. If a person is trained to sprint through full-bodied writing, they need a few pages to adjust to the spare style.

The beauty of more spare writing is that it can very closely track the speed of the action. Full-bodied writing tends to be out of phase with the action (hence the propensity to skim ahead during intense scenes).

Anonymous said...

BTW, I've noticed the same evolution in your writing. :)

Bernita said...

Some useful reminders and reasoning on those sites, Elizabeth.

"the return key is your friend"
That's succinct, Bonnie!

Moderation in all things, Sam!

A good point, Raine. We don't want to feel we're reading a first grade primer.

Part of what I was trying to say, Jason, was that the shorter paragraph may focus the reader's attention on the visually isolated thought.
More mean and lean?

Sela Carsen said...

Is it about pacing, perhaps, more than white space?

Some passages lend themselves to longer paragraphs, longer sentences, more language.

Quick-paced action, ramped up tension, however, work best with quick, staccato sentences and paragraphs.

That said, I like white space. From my advertising years, I learned that white space is our friend.

Kate Thornton said...

I like modern architecture and furniture - less is more. That's pretty much how I feel about writing, too - and why I write short in an attempt to write spare.

Bernita said...

Sela, I think one point was that white space may not only indicate tension and pace but also accentuate it.

Don't think I'm as consistent, Kate. So many lovely things in so many lovely styles. I like them all. But good, clean lines are a delight.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the mention.

I was shocked when I came across aspiring writers who didn't know the basic technical features of paragraphs. Some even aren't young enough to use age as any sort of excuse. Those are the times I stop editing/critiquing (that is if I even got around to doing it before seeing how paragraphs have been misused), and recommend some English textbooks.

It's no surprise to me, though, that said post got linked on the 101 Reasons to Not Write blog under "If you need this advice, you shouldn't be writing".

There are too many things I still take for granted, apparently, when it comes to what writers know. Even aspiring ones.

I like white space; white space makes me feel less claustrophobic and less like I'm studying a college textbook.

JM @ FictionScribe

Bailey Stewart said...

I think a book is what it is - white space or not. Would you go back and change the classics because there isn't enough white space. Different styles of books require differing writing techniques. I like both white space and dialogue filled tomes. But then, I like antique furniture with gorgeous ornate carvings too.

Bernita said...

Nice of you to drop by, Fiction Scribe and thank you!
Dense paragraphs do have that academic, instructive feel. Can be quite repellant.
I enjoyed your Peeves.

Honestly, Bailey, there are times when I would.
Something like re-finishing or re-upholstering old furniture.

Ballpoint Wren said...

In the old days, paragraphs ran over multiple pages!

Bernita said...

May be why one finds pencil marks in old books in the middle of those paragraphs, Bonnie.