The tension between the known and the unknown

Photograph by Martin Vlach. Click the image to see more of his work. Hat tip Beautiful Decay.

My mentor Paul McComas has a principle he calls the Tightrope of Disclosure.  Give too much information to the reader and the writer falls off one side into obviousness and will bore the reader.  Give too little information and the writer falls off the other side into obscurity and will confuse the reader.  The sweet spot is between those two extremes, a fine line where the reader has just enough information to know what’s going on and be intrigued, to want to read on, discover more. The writer should be sure the reader knows what’s happening, and then let them figure out the why.

I think this principle can also be helpful in other artistic media.  Consider the photograph above.  Much of its power is in its simplicity.  Its aesthetic grace draws us in, and once we’re in it tickles our brains.  We know the what, the men standing silently in a forest shrouded in mist, but we don’t know the why.  We’re prompted to ask questions, and then to imagine answers.  And those answers are going to be different for everyone.

I love using images like this as writing prompts, but it also inspires me to infuse my own art with mystery.

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