The Writer's Process: Losing Sense & Increasing Sensitivity

One of the things I've learned to do as a writer is to make use of all the various senses while using descriptive prose. It drags the reader in completely, lets them submerse and engage.
I've also toyed with, in certain scenes--specifically in "Blacker Than Black"--leaving out the engagement of a specific sense for a reason. It's a short sequence,  and I recall a discussion with the editor who felt the need for there to be some type of description of visual cues to ground the reader.
"No," I responded. "The narrator's eyes are closed."

Instead, Black describes scents and sensations and sounds. The lack of that single sensory input was acute and noticeable, to the point of inciting discomfort or disorientation in the audience--which, in that scene, was precisely the type of reaction I'd been aiming for.

It's a tool, looking for what's not there, or in some cases, what needs left out. Negative space is what they call the term in painting, or even sculpture. I'm not sure if there's an equivalent literary term. As with much in my writing, I take concepts and theories from myriad other sources and fields, looking for strange and twisted means of application.

It doesn't always work, but sometimes it works precisely as I intended. Whether or not it's noticed by every member of the audience, or what level of impact it has, well that differs by the individual, and what they're looking for.

I have a character in one story, for instance, who is colorblind. Because distinguishing between hues and tones is redundant, his awareness of other details comes to the fore. It's likely that, when I sit down to write scenes that include him, I'll take the time to do a good bit of photography in sepia or black and white tones. A means of research in order to get a feel for what is seen, and what isn't.

Jan and Journal, in Sepia
What I'm struggling with in my Nano project, however, is how to apply this same "void" technique on an emotional level instead of a sensory one. One aspect hypersensitive, another numbed, how does it skew perception, interpretation, and response? It's a learning adventure involving a great deal of trial and error, but I've no doubt that eventually I'll work it out.
NanoWrimo is progressing, though slowly. The words are flowing slowly, but they are flowing, which is the important thing. And I'm enjoying this little journey, more than I have any adventure I've worked on in a while. Which is heartening on any number of levels. The emotional burnout is receding, at long last.
I'm eager to see where it takes me.

Comments