Leaving It to the Imagination

There are times in my writing when I give very clear details about the action that is occurring.  For example, there is a big fight scene between two dragons in my current novel in which every move of the main character was relayed.  (It’s from her point of view, so we don’t always know what the other dragon is doing.)

However, there are times when it is good to leave things to the imagination.

First, some things happen that would be very boring to record.  A lot of stories end one chapter with a character going to bed and the next with that person waking up.  Everyone understands that character slept in between those two actions.  Honestly, unless it is unusual sleep (strange dreams) or it’s plot-related (sleepless due to an upcoming event) we don’t really want or need to read about it.

Sometimes the characters need their privacy.  The chapter I wrote this morning includes an intimate scene with two of my characters; I set the stage, gave the reader enough detail to know what’s going on, and then left.   The reader can fill in the blanks with their own imagination, if necessary; the story resumes after the fact.  It’s similar to a movie that shows two people in a passionate embrace and then the next we see they’re waking up next to each other.  The level of intimacy is implied rather than displayed.

Another good time to leave things to the imagination is when some readers (or, occasionally, the author!) don’t really want to know the details.  This applies to fight scenes, war wounds, battle aftermath, etc.  I like to provide enough detail to make the scene feel real in the imagination, but not so much that most people will be grossed out.

No matter what the reason, it’s always interesting to leave things up to the reader.  Sometimes the details they fill in are way more interesting than what you would have given them!

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