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Inside or out?

Getting the order right means a lot.

David Gane
David Gane
1 min read

We play a story out in our mind's eye when we read.

Our body has a neurological response to the words. If a character smells cinnamon, our brain lights up as if we've smelled cinnamon; if a character runs away from danger, our brain activates those areas.

So when a writer doesn't get the order right, it confuses us.

Gerald walked to the door. His house was bright and colourful—the kitchen green, the dining room red. In his dark blue living room was his comfy chair beside a roaring fireplace. A bookshelf stretched from floor to ceiling with enough books for him to read until the end of time.
He turned the doorknob and entered.

Did the writing suggest that Gerald was inside or out? It felt like we were experiencing it from his point of view, so we'd assume he'd entered.

But the moment we realize this isn't true, it throws us from the unfolding narrative. We have to readjust our understanding and make sense of it. The illusion has been broken, and we're removed from the story. Too often, and we'll disengage.

Keep the order straight. Please don't confuse our understanding of the world you're painting in our mind's eye. We'll appreciate you for it.


David Gane Twitter

Co-writer of the Shepherd and Wolfe young adult mysteries, the internationally award-winning series, and teacher of storytelling and screenwriting.


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