Laissez Faire

Letting Life Lead

Writes and Wrongs #5: The Spotlight Effect (#writingtips)

If you mention it, it better be important.

In a rush? Just want to skip ahead ? click here.

I have been participating in a writer’s forum which I have avoided for years.   I guess, I never felt like I had anything to contribute and I thought I would just end up being target practice.  Instead of an apple on my head, I’d have one of my stories.   I had no idea that writers all tend to be plagued by insecurity.    Is there a writer out there who was born brimming with confidence!?


The forum a question came up:  Do you think everything should be in a neat little package [with nothing mentioned] beyond the scope of the story, or do you think it’s okay [to expand because] the story is a small part of a much broader world…? 

That’s a very good question.  I thought about it.    I’d like to discuss what I call “the spotlight effect”.

spotlightThe Spotlight Effect

I have learned a lot this past year from writing flash fiction and microstories and letting others read them.  When you write for yourself, you don’t care about how things come across because you have that knowledge base in your head.  You know how your planet works,  you know the origin of the magical hair bows, and the paisley vortex breadbox makes sense.

It’s a different ballgame when you are trying to put images into someone else’s head.

1. Readers notice everything.   They look for that character connection, a setting, a conflict, and a resolution — and if any of those is missing or out of balance it pulls the reader’s attention right to it.      I’ve learned that if your character makes a decision or chooses an action,  it needs to fit and contribute to the story or else it blinks like a zit on the end of someone’s nose.    Readers will question why an action doesn’t fit the character’s personality (especially if the character’s personality is vague).

2. Readers like balance.   It does depend on the story length and genre.  If a  story has a detailed beginning, detailed middle, and an ending of a few sentences, the story seems unfinished or rushed.   The reader begins to wonder why the ending is so short.    If the beginning is super detailed, and the middle sparse, and the ending detailed…questions arise: “Is that middle really needed?  Does the beginning need to be that long?”

3. If you edit be sure the resulting order flows.   My beta readers noticed right away when I moved ONE sentence and pointed out to me that something was “strange”.   Because I moved it, it was separated from it’s reference/grounding sentence and it lit up like a short circuit when they read it.    A lot of times, our word choices are related to the words we’ve chosen previously.   I didn’t realize this before.

4. Setting is crucial.  If the setting is in a place a person is familiar with like a dive bar or Starbucks, you can get away with very few words about it and only have to remind about the setting now and then (depending on the length of the story).   If it’s in a fantasy world, in the distant past, future, or historic area — you have to dedicate more time to it and be sure it is sprinkled throughout the story more often.   Even a fairy tale needs a groundwork if it is totally out of the range of known stories.  If it’s a world like Cinderella or Snow White that’s one thing, if it is new and the world occurs on a Gas Giant Moon…well… how do things work there?   Inquiring minds want to know.

5. Coincidences don’t fly.   Readers will call you out on a coincidence.   Tinsel just doesn’t appear in July out of no where even though it is baffling how it escaped the two thousand passes of the vacuum.   That bit of silver came from somewhere, its shape allows it to fit into crevices, its thin length means it can get caught around splinters and bits of carpet.  Tinsel doesn’t just manifest out of thin air.    If your character A meets character B in a completely random place, at a random time, yet it all fits perfectly into a perfectly executed Plan, readers will cry Plot Hole!

6. If you mention it, it better be important.   Readers don’t like loose ends or dangling modifiers.    If you bring up the ornate jewelry box that summons a garden gnome at the beetle bloom on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, then you best be sure you mention it again somewhere as a part of something:  mode of transportation, memory trigger, handy weapon, or currency.   Anything.  If you don’t, a spotlight shines on it.   The reader will scratch their head and say, “Hey, what about that gnome box thing?  Whatever happened with that!?”     



What things do you think shine a spotlight in the stories you read?

10 comments on “Writes and Wrongs #5: The Spotlight Effect (#writingtips)

  1. spedbug
    February 13, 2016

    Very good points, all!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Laissez Faire
      February 13, 2016

      Thanks 🙂 It’s amazing what you think is so clear either confuses someone else or makes them ask question you never thought about. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • spedbug
        February 13, 2016

        I’m VERY guilty of the ‘blind omniscience’ pitfall. I know what’s going on and forget that others don’t. This is probably due to me spending 99.9% of my time in my own head.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Laissez Faire
        February 13, 2016

        LOL. Don’t all writers do that?

        Liked by 1 person

  2. inkbiotic
    February 13, 2016

    Thank you for this, very clear and I agree with it all! A writer friend of mine calls them ‘hiccups’, little moments that remind the reader that this isn’t real, which is never a good thing.


  3. creatingahome
    February 14, 2016

    Brilliant post.
    Learning a lot from this series.
    Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Michael
    February 14, 2016

    Paisley vortex breadbox? I’d like to know more about that one. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • Laissez Faire
      February 14, 2016

      Hehe. Do you wonder if the breadbox is paisley or the vortex.


      • Michael
        February 14, 2016

        A paisley vortex would certainly be interesting. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


This entry was posted on February 13, 2016 by in writing, writing lessons, writing tips and tagged , , , , , , , .

Email Subscribe and Support

Subscribe to Tara Writes at Become a Patron
pinterest-button Follow LaissezFaireLife on Twitter google feedburner
Follow Laissez Faire on

Get blog updates by Worpdress via email, or choose Mailchimp.

Join 1,548 other subscribers

Shop With Me!

My Reviews

Shop and Read My Reviews

Aspiring writer, wife, mother of two, owner two cats. Teacher, lover of science, books, science fiction, fantasy, and video games.


Visit My Fellowship

Corey Hastings

writing, traveling, and tap dancing around town.

Write Josephine Write

Leave your fear of the dark at the door, suspend your disbelief and come on in...

Kim Witbeck

Writer and procrastinator

Jina S. Bazzar

authors inspirations

The Mad Puppeteer

Warden of Words // Shaper of Stories

Gawky Scribbler

Bewitching Journey of Words to Meaning

Building The Love Shack

This is the story of building a cottage , the people and the place. Its a reminder of hope and love.

Learning to write

Just your average PhD student using the internet to enhance their CV


Pen to paper

%d bloggers like this: