No doubt you’ve been drilled on the writer’s axiom: Show, don’t tell. And I’m sure you’re well-versed on how to write richly immersive scenes using the palette of senses. But I bet you’ve never heard of the “Outer world / Inner world” approach to writing scenes. Or if you have, then it’s because you discussed it with me—the originator!
The outer world / inner world approach to writing a scene is included in the creative writing exercises I hand out in the writing boot camps. I thought it’s time to share the secret with you:
The Outer World / Inner World Approach
In the above “Outer World / Inner World” diagram, a shift in focus within the same point of view (POV) is shown. On the left hand side of the diagram the narrative is focused on the outer world (the inner world is peripheral). As the narrative progresses the focus makes a transition to the inner world (the outer world becomes peripheral).
The outer world (sensory)
The outer world is sensory—felt through the senses relating to sight, sound, hearing, touch, and taste. With an outer world focus, the narrative unfolds in the form of a scene from the chosen POV. The scene is immersive (using the varied senses).
Inner world (mental)
The inner world contains perceptions, mental feelings, dispositions, thoughts, memories, intentions, states of mind, consciousness. In this inner world the POV character seeks to make sense of their situation. In a story (and in life in a far less coherent way), the POV character seeks happiness / a release from suffering through the pursuit of any one or all of three desires: to have, to become, to be freed from. In short, the POV character is motivated to overcome something.
Transitions are triggered by feelings arising from a “significant” event in the POV character’s outer- or inner world. The POV perceives something significant in either world, drawing them in. These transitions might also be considered the story’s silver thread weaving these worlds together.
A transition that is not triggered by feeling will have an incidental feel about it—the author groping about in the dark or attempting to adhere to a preconceived plot.
A story may unfold in a sequence of these “outer world / inner world” events. The reader becomes immersed in both worlds, enjoying each transition because it is underlain by feeling, and because the reader attains a pleasing sense that there is no real boundary between the outer and inner world—both are dependent on the other. In this way too, the boundary between the reader the story on the page disappears—this is the magic of a story.
(Outer): Manu steered the stolen motorbike through the rain and silty puddles along the road’s narrow shoulder. He passed gridlocked vehicles idling, trucks belching out fumes. The motorbike’s rumbling motor was warm comfort against the insides of his legs while the rest of him shivered. (Transition): He caught glimpses of impatient motorists, stuck, angry, cursing him it seemed, in their steel cocoons as he motored past. (Inner) To hell with them! His lips tightened as he thought about the wad of stolen money and gun in his backpack. He thought of Rita—how she would be waiting for him at the hotel. (Transition) Tonight, he decided, opening up the motorbike’s throttle, couldn’t come fast enough.
Now it’s your turn!
Now you have the outer world / inner world approach and an example, why not give it a try for yourself. I wish every success!