somewhere in the distance….

…A train whistled? A car honked? A dog barked? A dog definitely barked.

One of the most important parts of novel-writing is the quiet moments, the moments in between, where a reader can breathe. According to this great hilarious article (that was lost in my junk mail for these past months and I am lucky enough to have found!) we authors tend to fill these crucial points with barking dogs.

In his post from a few backs, Lawrence talks about what he calls ‘normal’ scenes, scenes that give space, and how they difficult they are to ensure the reader does not lose interest. It’s all about giving the reader something they don’t think they want – on the sly. But what about those moments, those oh so necessary lulls? How do we create them without losing the reader, or sounding like an old hat?

“Perhaps distant dogs are a way for novelists to wink at one another, at their extraordinary luck for being allowed into the publishing club.”says Rosecrans Baldwin on the article linked above (it’s definitely worth a read! It gave me a great laugh!).

“Most authors, however, employ the trope as a narrative rest stop, an innocuous way to fill space and time; since the bark is hollow, a reader can read anything into it, or nothing at all.”

But, do we want that? Do we want emptiness? NO! We want these spaces to be full. We do not want be amateurs, as Baldwin points out.

Well, writing is a work in progress, ALWAYS. I am curious to know if I have dogs barking in the distance in any of my fiction, or thunder rumbling….

Not only do these lulls have to be full of the right stuff (a loud silence?? oh writing, how confounding you are sometimes!), they have to be timed properly, inserted at the right spots, be the right length, and there can’t be too many. Or too few.

How about you? Do you struggle with the silent spaces? And are they important to you?

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18 thoughts on “somewhere in the distance….

  1. If anything, I’m guilty of writing right through the rests. I have to remember that it’s okay to have pauses in there. Also, I have to remind myself that I don’t have to carry the reader from one scene to the next on the page. Triple asterisks and brief scenes are okay!

    • yes, triple asterisks good. very good. Unless there are too many. That can me crazy as well, Jonathan. Reading a book that is endless small scenes parading after each other. I need a balance or long, middle, and small scenes.

  2. When I first started reading this I thought: “Dogs barking? I haven’t used that one yet.”

    But now that I’ve read the article I realize it’s too late; it’s now cliche. Dang.

  3. Oh dear, I’ve used the sound of the surf, the sound of a crinkly label on a water bottle and this: The only sound in the room was the faintest whisper of skin against skin as Jalal trailed his thumb up and down her right calf. But I’ve never used a dog barking, or even a train whistle, or a car honking. I’ll never get published that way.

    I’m off to add a dog … barking … somewhere … in the darkness. 🙂

  4. I treasure the silent spaces in my life, and I think that naturally finds its way into my writing, so I haven’t given it much thought. Now you have me reading through looking to see what I’ve done!

  5. Oh dear, that is funny! But how do you write about silence other than to say “there was silence” and thereby ruin the moment with your own voice?

  6. Never thought about it until now but I struggle with the resting sections especially what to include and what to skip. Haven’t used noises in the distance, yet. Love the thought of having a barking dog as a way of winking at other writers.

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