Media Monday: Commercials and Silence in Writing

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On Media Mondays, we always look at what other forms of communication are doing right and figure out how to apply these principals to writing. So now let’s do the opposite and take a lesson from a media form that is not going so well.

American commercialism is not exactly a secret and the advertisements we see on TV are as varied and strange as the people living in the country. While there are admittedly some commercials that can touch my heart, most of the ads we see these days are obnoxious, in your face, and plain irritating. Rather than draw me into whatever product or service the advertisers hoped to sell, the loud, blaring clips push me away. Unfortunately, writing can sometimes have the same effect on a reader. Authors need to be careful that they give their story the chance to breath.

In shorter flash fiction, this is not a huge issue, but in longer short stories or novels, writers can run into trouble when they want constant action and tension. Have you ever noticed that you appreciate music more after a long stretch of quiet, rather than after a day of sound and noise? The effect is the same in writing. Sometimes, the most powerful scenes are those in which not a lot happens. Think about all you want to say and try to communicate that in as few words as possible. Giving readers a break from the action of the story is essential to building character development, balancing emotions, and making those tense moments feel important. If your entire piece has high emotion, like most ads are, it may be more difficult for the reader to identify, and thus appreciate, the most important parts.

Take this commercial for Google, for example. There isn’t a single word spoken throughout the entire ad, but it tells a story that viewers can relate to and appreciate, without being obnoxiously in the face of the audience.

The key is to find the balance between what is said and what goes uncommunicated. Take that moment of silence and allow your story to speak for itself. You may be surprised what it says.

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