By Lester Smith | June 8, 2009
When talking to people about writing, I often mention something the artist at my day job taught me years ago. Pointing to an illustration in progress—a cartoon of a sailor “walking the plank,” with sharks circling below him and a gang of pirates prodding him with swords from behind—the artist said, “This is the perfect point in the story, because it lets the viewer fill in what happens next.”
That’s a lesson I try very hard to apply to poetry (among other things). Better to present readers with imagery or a situation and let them fill in the rest than tell them what they’re supposed to think. Even if they “get it wrong,” they’re more likely to appreciate the writing and come back for more.
Today, I ran across pretty much the same lesson, though told somewhat differently, by—oddly enough—another cartoonist. His title: “Do You Know When to Shup Up?”