Friday, September 21, 2012


The thing that always strikes me when I read any decently written complex novel, is the number of times the reader is reminded by a remark or observation of something mentioned earlier in the story.  This something could be something that is important to know at this point, but whose details were probably buried among the detritus the wordy writers spreads with a trowel over her/his pages.

Usually these reminders speak to a seemingly trivial attribute, a peculiar manner of speech, a way of dressing, or perhaps a facial tic.  It could remind the reader of an event barely mentioned one hundred pages earlier, or a remark about a trip mentioned in a conversation. Whatever that reminder might be, it bears on what is described on this page, at his plot point, or during this event.

There's a reason to remind the reader.  The writer cannot, at first mention of one of these important details, say "Look here, this is really important for you to keep in mind" since sic a remark would pull the reader out of the story and probably be irritating as hell.  Since novels contain a dozen or more of important details, it is no wonder the writers feels that hand-holding is necessary!

Short fiction, on the other hand, rarely needs these crutches to memory. Stories in this category are generally brief enough that even small, unnoticed details tend to stick in the reader's mind, and are easily recalled when needed.  Even if the reader misses the original detail because of poor short term memory, they can easily reread the story to discover what they missed ( Hey, its only a few pages!)

One added advantage for writers is that removing the need for reminders and relying on the reader's persistence of memory usually makes a short story's prose crisp and clean.

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