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Careers: Writing/Using implication in writing



I remember I wrote you before about writing and found your responses very helpful so I wanted to ask another question about my story if it's okay with you.  :)

Anyway I've been reading about how using implication in writing can be a powerful technique because of how it makes the story more intriguing as well as saves it from pages of boring exposition, e.g., such as how a character whose fingernails are often shown frequently bitten to the quick can indicate how much of a nervous wreck she is as a result of having a difficult life, etc.

So I'm still working on the story about the teen girl who is trying to reform her love interest, (sad, I know), and so far I've been able to give indicators of his rough past, ("prison-chiseled physique, biceps like bowling balls," etc.) yet I also try to convey his underlying fragility by giving him perhaps a limp and childhood scars on his neck by cigar burns and so on.

For the girl I try to show that she is from a wealthy family but also one that is as hideously abusive to her as her boyfriend's was to him, but I'm having a very difficult time pulling this off with the girl in comparison with the guy, for some reason.  I don't know why, I guess it could be because her situation is more complicated.  Right now I've just given her nice, rich girl-type clothing and a very thin, fragile frame and have made her short and skinny for her 17 years to give signs of neglect, however that could simply show that she has some sort of condition or disease, not necessarily that her parents are being heinous to her.

Anyway, if you have any other ideas or suggestions I'll really appreciate it as I am pretty much stumped.


ANSWER: Hi Frances -
How about if she seems fine but has over-reaction to sudden loud noises?
Or check other symptoms of PTSD and use one of them - bad memory?
Something that seems innocent at first would probably be best.
Does that help at all?


---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Ah, I in other words, it's possibly more effective to reveal these things about her past very slowly throughout the story, in increasing significance, (e.g., her irritability, snatches of flashback triggered by emotional cues, feeling of emotional numbness and resignation despite her plight), and gradually reveal the guy's past, (but in different ways), as well?

Yes, definitely. Some people love backstory and in some genres (courtroom, detective), it's essential. My personal preference is to use as little as possible as late as possible in as small an increment as possible. On one level, good storytelling involves involving the reader by giving them some information that doesn't necessarily make sense since, as puzzle-solving animals, we will try to speculate and piece things together. Of course, you have to make sure that the main story is compelling and driving the narrative forward. I often feel that backstory slows things down.

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Greg Miller


I can answer questions about writing and the creative process in any form or genre. I have been a writer and writing coach and teacher for 15 years, working with NY Times bestselling authors and absolute beginners on memoirs, screenplays, TV scripts, solo shows, personal essays and standup comedy.


I'm the author of "How To Be A Writer Who Writes" ( and the writer's reference book "Miller's Compendium of Timeless Tools for the Modern Writer" ( I have taught at UCLA Extension, Humber College, Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health, Cal Arts, NY Institute of Technology, Teen Canteen and numerous arts and cultural centers. I am co-director of The Comedian's Way Workshop for Writers, Performers and Other Humans, which I have taught privately with Beth Lapides in Los Angeles for 15 years. I have been coaching writers privately for almost 10 years. I have also worked as a writer and producer for TV, film, stage, radio and online media.


LA Weekly, Writers Digest, Omni, Premiere, CBC, NPR

NYU, BA in History/Journalism

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