Thursday, October 13, 2016

The Spaces In Between

'.... she trusts her reader to fill in the gaps. 'Do not underestimate the silences or breaks in a line,' she urges. Well I don't. Here such quietnesses surely amount to silent screams.'
Candia McWilliam, Guardian article re her memoir, What to Look for in Winter.

I have realised that some of my best photographs (I am a keen amateur photographer) have a lot of space in them, a lot.  There's one of a beach, in the foreground there is a large expanse of sand and pebbles, small waves spreading over wet sand, grey sea.  In the distance are small figures, paddling.  The colours are soft and muted.  It is so very British - there are no lush tropical colours about this beach. I took the picture a few years ago on a beach in West Sussex. Candia's words somehow reminded me of that picture..  I can look at it many times and enjoy the quietness, the coolness, the delicate colours and most of all the space, which gives it a timeless dreamy quality.

Sometimes what makes good writing is not what is said, what is in the foreground, it is the spaces in between. Maybe that's also what makes good art - the use of space. Pinter and Beckett were masters of this art. - was it The Birthday Party or The Homecoming where Pinter's character's show so brilliantly our human struggle to communicate with so few words spoken and so many pauses in the dialogue? The silences are heavily laden with sometimes hostility, sometimes grief or sadness.  Sometimes just boredom. Beckett too in Waiting for Godot uses silence to powerful effect.

Writing good dialogue keeps words to a minimum and leaves so much unsaid.  Just as in real life. If you listen to conversation amongst a group of people, what creates atmosphere and highlights the existential pain is not how we communicate, it is how we don't.

To be able to create that as a writer - that's what makes for great writing.

No comments: