Allow the Reader’s Intelligence

Colum McCann > Letters to Young Writers > Allow the Reader’s Intelligence

Never say too much in your story or your poem or anywhere else for that matter. Never dictate. (Alas, he dictates). Avoid pointing out what your stories mean. Trust your reader. One of the great rules of writing classes is “Show, Don’t tell.” What this means is that you must guide a reader through unfamiliar territory without taking away the experience, the living moments of the story. We read in order to inhabit newness. Move the reader physically through a story. Guide them. And then surprise them once more. Allow the revelation to belong to your reader. You are a guide in a foreign land. Be kind, but not too kind. Challenge. Confront. Dare. Cleave open a new territory for them. Then let them go. Say just enough that they can learn the territory for themselves.