What Isn’t There

30 May

As a struggling artist at school, labouring over a picture of a tree I was trying to perfect, my teacher leaned in to take a look, and glibly suggested I try to focus on what wasn’t there. The comment so baffled me that I dropped Art soon after, my confidence shaken by the lack of ability to see what wasn’t there.

Later in life, I understood; she wanted me to capture the shadows and the play of light on the leaves, the transience of the moment.  If applied to the art of writing it is often what characters don’t have that gives them depth and shapes their presence in the novel. The intangible play of emotion caused by a lack of love, security, hope … is what motivates them and drives the plot.

It’s worth remembering this when creating a character. ‘ Focus on what isn’t there.’ (quote: Mrs Simpson, Art Teacher).

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