Monday, 14 April 2014

The Complete Picture?

Our readers only know what we tell them. It doesn’t matter whether you’re writing fiction or non-fiction, the picture we choose to draw in our reader’s imagination may not reflect the reality. We have the ability to skew reality if we desire.

It’s something photographers can choose to do too. Take a look at the following images I took at the weekend …

Looks idyllic, doesn’t it? And it was! This is Molesey Old Hall, a National Trust property in the Midlands. The blossom and flowers were uplifting. Spring is here! And inside the house, history oozed from every crevice - including the large ones between each floorboard that enabled us to see the people wandering around downstairs!

Molesey Old Hall was one of those places where Charles II escaped to, and hid, after his defeat at the Battle of Worcester in 1651. He came here, after hiding in the oak tree at nearby Boscobel House. 

But enough of the history …. I began this blog by saying that as writers we can skew reality if we choose to. I told you that Molesey Old Hall is in the Midlands. For those of you who don’t know the property at all, ‘the Midlands’ hopefully, helped you place it into the central region of England. But I chose my words carefully. I could have said, near Wolverhampton. I didn’t, because there’s one piece of information I wanted to hold back … so by saying ‘the Midlands’ instead of ‘Wolverhampton’ I was able to continue skewing the reality. 

Those photos all skew the reality too. Why? Because some of them are carefully angled so as not to reveal all of the information. And, being photos they can only draw upon one sense - your sense of sight.

To deliver the whole reality of my trip to Molesey Old Hall to you, I need to mention something that I could hear … the M54 motorway. Molesey Old Hall backs onto it, which means that the wander around those idyllic gardens was not the peaceful, tranquil picture you may have imagined whilst looking at the photos above. (I would also say, don’t let that stop you from going - both the house and the gardens are a fascinating place and well worth the visit.)

But, it wasn’t until I showed these photos to someone else that they said, “it looks so serene and calm there,” that made me realise the photos did not convey the whole picture. And as writers we have that ability too, through the words that we choose (such as ‘the Midlands’ instead of ‘Wolverhampton’). 

Indeed, this opportunity to allow us to hold back information is what many writers use, particularly in fiction, when writing a twist in the tale piece - carefully choosing non-specific words and phrases that encourages the reader to think of one thing, instead of what we want them to think about. 

So next time you sit down to write something, consider whether you’re giving your reader the whole picture? Do you need to? And would holding something back until the end give your writing more drama and impact?

Good luck.

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