Language of Shadow and Silence

Language of Shadow and Silence

Silence is a language of context.

White space is silence in print ads.
Visual saturation is its opposite.

Shadow is another language of context.

Silence is seen and shadows are heard in the dim-light quiet of the printed word:

We had come home.

We had discussed whether to go out for dinner or eat in.

I said I would build a fire, we could eat in.

I built the fire, I started dinner, I asked John if he wanted a drink.

I got him a Scotch and gave it to him in the living room, where he was reading in the chair by the fire where he habitually sat….

I finished getting dinner, I set the table in the living room where, when we were home alone, we could eat within sight of the fire. I find myself stressing the fire because fires were important to us. I grew up in California, John and I lived there together for twenty-four years, in California we heated our houses by building fires. We built fires even on summer evenings, because the fog came in. Fires said we were home, we had drawn the circle, we were safe through the night. I lit the candles. John asked for a second drink before sitting down. I gave it to him. We sat down. My attention was on mixing the salad.

John was talking, then he wasn't.

– excerpted from The Year of Magical Thinking (2005), Joan Didion's attempt to comprehend her husband's sudden death after 40 years of marriage.

The Cognoscenti of the Magical Worlds Communications Workshop – next class Mar. 6 – will remember a visual technique called Frameline Magnetism which calls upon the imagination to fill in what was strategically left out. The technique works with words, as well.

What did Joan Didion leave out? By stripping away the adjectives, Didion polished and accelerated her words toward greater impact.

Here's another example of Verbal Frameline Magnetism:

“You can't come in now,” one of the nurses said.

“Yes I can,” I said.

“You can't come in yet.”

“You get out,” I said. “The other one too.”

But after I had got them out and shut the door and turned off the light it wasn't any good. It was like saying good-bye to a statue. After a while I went out and left the hospital and walked back to the hotel in the rain.

– from Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms

Again, no adjectives. Neither did the following words appear: room, entered, lying there, dead, sadness, love. Yet we saw and felt these things just as surely as if the words had floated above the paper and sparkled with light. Hemingway, like Didion, wrote cleanly, leaving your imagination to fill in what he strategically left out.

Here's what the technique looks like when aimed at advertising:

You've seen the condos in Myrtle Beach that overlook the ocean.
Rich people own those. And when they're not using them, we rent them out to nice families like yours for about the same prices you've been paying for hotel rooms.

Put yourself in their shoes.
The condo is paid for and empty.
Why not let it generate a few bucks?

Now put yourself in their condo.
We're Condotels. Our job is to welcome you upon your arrival in Myrtle Beach and hand you the keys to your luxury condo. It's as easy as staying in a hotel. But better. A lot better.

# # # #

The amateur knows what to include.
The expert knows what to leave out.

Adjectives are crutches.

Clean is fast.

Can you write
fast and light?

Do it. Watch what happens.

Roy H. Williams

Interactive Ad Writing Class, anyone? (This is big.)

Are you are retailer or service provider?
If so, you may find this opportunity VERY interesting.