Knowledge Gaps in Fiction


In the spirit of trying to write more, I am also attempting to blog more as well. It all counts right?

I don’t usually do book reviews on this blog. I’m afraid finishing up my English degree killed all my desire for deep analysis of other writer’s fiction—writing about it at least. It’s more of a “I don’t have to anymore, so I won’t and no one can make me” sentiment.

The Story Book by David Baboulene

The Story Book by David Baboulene

However, I have been reading a wonderful book on writing by David Baboulene called The Story Book—a writer’s guide to story development, principles, problem solving and marketing. That’s quite an ambitious title and book premise.

Rather than focusing on whether the entire book lives up to the promise in the title, I’d like to focus on a particularly interesting section discussing what the author calls “knowledge gaps.”

Knowledge gaps, Baboulene says, “are the only way that your story can live and breathe. Without it, your story will have no soul.” Baboulene believes that knowledge gaps provide the subtext to a story and without subtext, he insists, “there is no story.” I happen to agree.

Text, subtext and theme have been thoroughly discussed, hashed and rehashed and fought over for years and years. Thousands upon thousands of words have been devoted to the subject (Just Google text, subtext, theme) and I’ve read a lot about it, but Babolene is the first I’ve found to tie subtext to knowledge gaps.

Baboulene says that knowledge gaps (when the writer holds back information from the reader) makes stories more absorbing for readers, saying that they, the readers, “project different answers into the gap” and this is how readers “create an underlying story, a subtextual story” all by themselves.
As Baboulene explains:

In a good story there is always, always a difference in the knowledge possessed by at least one participant when compared to the audience.
It is in this knowledge gap that the brain gets busy; flying backwards through the delivered information trying to attain the knowledge that will fill this gap and flying forwards in the story to try and project a justifiable sequence of events that will take us to the desired story outcome…

This really resonated with me. After all if readers or movie goers aren’t working relentlessly to fill in what happens next throughout a work of fiction, then where do surprise endings come from?

Baboulene goes on to discuss types of knowledge gaps and the rule of fair play in fiction, as in don’t leave out too much or the twist or revelation will seem incongruous.

This section of the book has already helped me work out some problems in at least one story of mine that seemed to be going nowhere. I had to think about what was going on behind the scenes, things my protagonist didn’t know about. This gave added depth to the story and even filled in some backstory.

The rest of the book is excellent as well and delves deeply into many aspects of story theory, but does so in a conversational, easy-to-understand way.

Here’s the Amazon link if you’re interested: The Story Book–A writers’ guide to story development, principles, problem solving and marketing

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