I intimate a lot in all of my writing. I wrote this in a recent scene: He gestured off to his left, at a table of oversized white and maroon ribbons, neatly bowed on top of a headful of cheerleaders. Why don’t I just write: To the left I saw a table full of cheerleaders. The later is so much simpler and easy to understand. Often I should just tell the reader, hey here’s a table of cheerleader. But I tend to lean towards intimating it because I want to engage the reader. I want them to actively make sense of what’s going on, and to put 2+2 together.

When deciding whether to intimate or to just tell, I must keep a few things in mind:

  1. Like in show vs tell I must learn to know when to just write simply, and just tell the reader. Often we just want to get to the prize of the scene and can be annoying if we are actively thinking about mundane details.
  2. I must make sure the reader is actually able to put 2+2 together. Many times I unintentionally make it too hard to put together. Two causes of this —
    • I’ll write something that isn’t even on the reader’s mind. Maybe my character is focused on meeting a girl and I’ll intimate about something like he just failed a test. The test isn’t closely related to him meeting this girl, so the reader stops to think and is confused.
    • I’ll have my character ask himself a question. And I expect the reader to understand he’s asking that question because he believes that his girlfriend believes something, even though she doesn’t believe that something, and so on. In both of these, it’s too complicated and what happens is the reader is forced to think. They are taken out of the story.

And this is the great balance: how to allow the reader to have an active experience while never thinking about the experience. That’s what I strive for in my art.