AWP Dispatch: What to say & When to say it

Another report from Kerry Booth. Thanks, mister!

What to Say and When to Say It: Disclosure of Information for Optimal Effect – C.J. Hribal, Robert Boswell, Lan Samantha Chang, Peter Turchi

Easily the most anticipated (personally) panel of the day. Boswell is one of my favorite writers. His example of disclosure was Bynum’s “Yurt.” The disclosure of information should be fair to the reader, not simply a tease. Parsing out the information for the reader should be done slowly. The best form is a two-story thread: the surface story, simple, usually the main plot of the story, and the underlying story; through the telling of the underlying story, more information is lent to the surface story.

Sam Chang’s example was The Great Gatsby. While simple (9 chapters, 3 each for the beginning, middle and end) the intricacies of the story unfold as Nick learns Gatsby’s story. Indeed Fitzgerald’s final draft switched chapters 2 and 3 so that Gatsby’s remark at the end of Chapter 1 would have to wait for explanation. “Perfection of evenness = perfection of control.”

While I’m not sure who spoke next (did I mention sound was a problem?) his example was the Englebert Humperdink classic, “Please Release Me,” as a great example of how not to allow information to get out (it is entirely backward; trust me, read the lyrics). The release of information constantly colors the readers’ view of the characters, and can reveal an unreliable narrator. The flow of information is the balance between the reader’s mental uncertainty and pleasant excitement.

--Kerry Booth

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