I had never thought much about white space until I took a creative writing class in college that taught me how useful it can be. Some days we would do class critiques and read another student’s writing. I saw some really powerful uses of white space and my teacher always praised us for using it effectively. Before I took this class it wasn’t a technique I had ever used, and now I can’t write without it.
White Space Can be Used to Control Pace
Like sentence length, white space can affect the pace of the story. Adding white space can slow a story down because it takes time for the reader’s eyes to move along the different lines.
Three seconds left on the clock. He took the shot. The ball seemed to travel in slow motion. It wound around the hoop. He scored the winning goal.
Three seconds left on the clock.
He took the shot.
The ball seemed to travel in slow motion.
It wound around the hoop.
He scored the winning goal.
Adding the white space slows the story down. Just like television and movies will use slow motion to make the last few seconds of a game seem to take forever, white space can produce a similar effect in a novel. Helping your readers understand the pace of the story will cause them to be more engaged.
White Space Can be Used to Control Emotion
Similarly, adding white space can increase the emotion.
He shut his eyes. He didn’t want to see this. Not today. Not Ever.
He shut his eyes.
He didn’t want to see this.
Decreasing the pace, by making the sentences take longer to read can increase the emotion. The added time gives the emotion more time to build up. It’s more dramatic. White space makes this passage more noticeable, and drawing attention to it can give it a feeling of importance. Your readers will pay more attention and be more likely to notice the emotion. This will help your readers be more engaged with your novel and the characters’ development.
White Space is More Visually Appealing
As an added bonus, white space is aesthetically pleasing and makes text a lot easier to read. Would you rather read a page that was as full as possible with words, or one that had line breaks and white space? White space is easier on the eye and less overwhelming than massive paragraphs of text. I know I’m occasionally guilty of skimming a huge paragraph of description in favor of reading dialogue or shorter sentences that effectively use white space. Such sentences are more engaging and enjoyable to read.
Take a look at your novel. Where can you add white space?