[Writing Art ] Filling the Space

Filling in the Space

Digging through old photos, more discovery was made of my artistic legacy. My grandmother, Grace Reeve Bilger, showed me how to draw and paint on silk scarves. As we delved into  creating them, she showed how to use the whole space and how to add the dyes in tandem to make variant colors.

The image shows my painted silk scarf.

When I think about “using the whole space,” it reminds me how it applies to writing.

An artist paints the main project, but the goal is not to leave too much empty room on the canvas. Likewise, in writing, the space is the gaps between the main events. As writers, we get excited about the characters in our plots and can’t wait to get them to the next action. Often we don’t know what to write in the space between major events and leave too much empty room. I’ve learned from watching Rigoli –and from my grandmother–that it is in the space where rich character development and variant colors emerge.

How does a writer fill that empty space between plot events?

What I learned from Rigoli is that characters don’t magically appear in and out of plot. Characters are people who have to drive home, do their schoolwork, sleep, or go to work. It is in those more mundane moments where there is opportunity to show more about the internal thoughts and beliefs of the character. For example, how the character moans about being stuck in traffic, how great they can write a research paper at the last moment, or how much attention to detail they have by analyzing how many people drink tea. All of these moments can show the reader more information about the internal thoughts and actions of a character.