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Member # 8019

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A writer in a workshop today said about a story that was under scrutiny that a writer should write a story so that readers don't have to. It was a lightbulb moment. I took it to mean that the part of a narrative where a writer doesn't cover all the bases can't make it's way home without readers projecting their own stories onto an unfully realized story. Interpretations range across unintended meanings, in other words.

A graphical representation on point I know as the narrative arch illustrates how much of a reader's imagination and how much of a writer's creative vision inform a story's meaning. Like the St. Louis Gateway Arch, a narrative arch resembles a catenary arch. Two legs meet at the apex. One is the writer's leg, the other the readers' leg. Some writers write to the apex union; some into the readers leg; some stop on the writer's leg short of the apex.

Ernest Hemingway wrote short into the writer leg. William Faulkner wrote into the reader leg. F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote to the apex, for examples. But each wrote narratives that are understood by their respective audiences. And are sufficiently accessible so that readers in general don't have to invent bridges to span gaps.

There are artful gaps, though, artful ambiguities, dramatic ironies, subtexts that are accessible and spanable by readers' imaginations. Aye, there's the rub, it's a sticky wicket negotiating how much is too much and how much is too little.

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Member # 8617

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Here is a short video on writing short stories by my favorite Hoosier writer, Vonnegut.


#8 on the short list (for those who don't want to watch the 90 second video) is "Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible," and then the audio adds that readers should be able to "finish the story themselves."

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