I love the spaces between words. Those powerful silences when emotions run too deep to be expressed by mere words. A poem or a song might fill the void but most people in ‘real life’ sadly do not burst into song or have the perfect poem off pat. There is usually just silence. Portraying these moments in fiction can be a challenge.
For my own sanity I have to spend at least five minutes of every day inhabiting that space. When I am not speaking there is time to listen to the noisy jumble of thoughts and ideas that are bouncing around inside my head. If I’m not given enough time to think, I become melancholy and irritable.
Yesterday as I was walking along the South Bank I was accosted by a man who said, “
. Where is London Bridge
Hospital ?” London Bridge
I was shocked and for a minute I was once again transported back to The London Hospital in the eighteenth century. I had just come for the
’s Doctors, Dissection and Resurrection Men
exhibition. By the time I had pulled myself together, worked out that he
probably meant Guy’s Hospital, he had moved off from me in disgust and was making
his desperate appeal to someone else. Museum
Thoughts like fine wine need time to breathe. They need rousing time!
Every morning as a child my mother would wake up my brother and I by calling our names from the bottom of the stairs. When we answered her call she would give us rousing time. Five minutes or so of precious time to gather one’s thoughts, banish bad dreams and prepare for the day ahead. I still wake up each day and give myself rousing time.
As a teacher I have learned the power of silence. If I wait long enough with the right attitude - judgemental or irritated waiting will not do - then the child will invariably find the right words or the courage to speak out. It is one piece of advice that I give to colleagues: “Give the child time.” In class rooms it can be horrifying how little time is given between asking a question and waiting for the answer.
Theatre and film are more obvious mediums for showing what happens in the space between words. In storytelling, there is interior monologue, or the narrator’s voice, or observations from another character’s point of view.
I often describe periods of time in companionable silence to show an emotional connection between characters. How do you write the space between words?