Writers’ Tools – Indirection

I’m sure I’ve written about this before, but I can’t find the post, so Imma write about it again.

Indirection is the art of showing something without showing it directly. Some people don’t get it, but I get a kick out of it. I’m not as good at it as Elizabeth Peters is, but I try–I try.

Here’s an example from my soon-to-be-released novel, FORCE OF HABIT, in which a couple of Stokk villains are threatening Our Hero, Bel, and her kidnapper, Connell Morgan.

First, you have to set it up.

“Ligniss is very high-strung,” said Pron. “Show them your knuckles, Ligniss.”

The apricot Stokk raised his fists. They weren’t overly large, but they seemed to be constructed of some material that could withstand the test of time.

“Notice the knuckles,” said Pron. “How sharply knobby they are. He cracks them, you see. Against parts of people’s bodies, you see.”

Then you move things into place.

“Maybe he’s hard of hearing, Ligniss. Maybe you’d better stand a little closer to him. Then, if we have to tell him again, we’ll be sure he listens.”

Ligniss sat down beside Morgan and Pron took his place in front of the door.

Then you do the pay-off.

“Excuse me,” Morgan said.

Ligniss cracked his knuckles.

Morgan rubbed the dent on the side of his head and subsided.

So there you have it: indirection. What can I say? It amuses me.

WRITING PROMPT: Write a scene in which what happens is not told but only implied by its effects.



I was born in Louisville, Kentucky, but now live in the woods in southern Indiana. Though I only write fiction, I love to read non-fiction. The more I learn about this world, the more fantastic I see it is.

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One thought on “Writers’ Tools – Indirection

  1. Suzanne Purvis

    June 20, 2011 at 9:44am

    Very cool! I like this a lot. I tend to spell everything out, waaaaaay too much. This is a great technique for me to try out.

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    • Author

      Marian Allen

      June 20, 2011 at 9:47am

      It’s fun! Even if one decides not to use it in one’s writing, it’s a good exercise, especially if one does tend to over-explain. 🙂 I don’t want to say “you” because I don’t want to say or imply, directly or indirectly, that YOU over-explain!

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    • Author

      Marian Allen

      June 20, 2011 at 10:35am

      Thanks, Helen! You’re too young to remember Milton Berle, but he was the master of the three-part payoff. 🙂

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  2. Nickie Asher

    June 20, 2011 at 10:20am

    I like that! I’m going to try it as an exercise and see what happens.

    Permalink  ⋅ Reply
    • Author

      Marian Allen

      June 20, 2011 at 10:37am

      Do try it, Nickie. I love doing writing exercises. Let me know how it works for you!

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  3. Bob Sanchez

    June 20, 2011 at 11:51am

    This was fun to read, Marian. I didn’t know apricot Stokks had knobby fists.

    Permalink  ⋅ Reply
    • Author

      Marian Allen

      June 20, 2011 at 2:00pm

      Utrop Ligniss has knobby fists, as many unfortunate people will tell you, as soon as their dental work is complete.

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    • Author

      Marian Allen

      June 21, 2011 at 8:51am

      Liz, so you’ve done indirection, but only indirectly. VERY nice! ~grin from one author to another~

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