In the first four weeks of my seminar, I planned a crash course on filmmaking, emphasizing cinematographic tools and techniques as well as insight into the editing process. I’m in the midst of this now, and I find that it’s teaching me about the power of implied worlds.
When we go to a movie, we sit and focus our attention on a rectangle of moving light, which directs our eyes through a small slice of what appears to be another, complete world. If the movie is well-made, we’ll believe in that world while we’re in front of it.
When writing fiction, of course, you want to harness that same sort of power. You want readers to believe in the world that you’re showing them only a slice of. You can create believable worlds simply by choosing the right details to show—something, if you’re writing historical fiction, such as I am, you have to be able to do well.
It seems to me, then, that good fiction, like good film, must rely on the power of details and imagery to imply a greater, more expansive world outside of itself—an entire universe beyond its sentences and paragraphs that the reader is left to imagine and complete on his or her own.