The search for balance in our writing

04-07-16 Writer 0 comment

Rectifying, making some adjustments along the way is something that seems completely natural when telling a story in real time; when we talk. We know if what we are saying makes sense just by judging the reaction of the listener; if we are wrong, they can always interrupt and make questions or request more information from us.

When writing fiction it is very hard to know exactly how much information our reader wants or needs. Even if we knew it would be impossible to provide just the right amount of information because each reader will have different needs. It is simply impossible to achieve the perfect balance between action, dialogue and information because there is absolutely no way to keep everybody satisfied all the time.

This does not mean that we cannot make mistakes. Maybe it is not possible to satisfy every reader all the time but it is possible, indeed, to annoy them all.

You can treat your reader as someone who does not know anything about the world in which your novel takes place and start from scratch; explaining every detail. This is especially true with fiction and fantasy novels in which every world is different. This works particularly well with certain kind of stories, perhaps by introducing a new character who needs to be explained how things work. For the regular reader, however, especially followers of the genre or the saga, it becomes boring.

As in many aspects of literature, deciding the right technical approach is only the first step; we also have to do it in an interesting and entertaining way.

The right method poorly performed is no better than using the wrong technique.

Hemingway developed his Iceberg Theory based on the idea of getting the best of a small amount of text.


If one fails to include well known, important facts or events, the story becomes stronger.  If something is left out because one ignores it, the story will not be of any value. The real test for any story is the quality of the things that are missing, not the editors.

Ernest Hemingway in his essay The Art of the Short Story.


On the other hand this extreme minimization of prose, as practiced by Kipling and a whole generation of writers after him, has sworn enemies (one of them John Irving) who follow the writing style of authors such as Herman Melville and Nathaniel Hawthorne.