Negative Space

First off, I’m psyched for the title reveal this week. This is my debut novel and has been in the works for nearly a year so far. I found an editor that I hope to have a good, long term working relationship with and will be self-editing for all of November before sending him my manuscript in December. I will be looking for beta readers sometime this winter when the rounds of edits are coming to an end, so, if you are interested, please keep an eye out for that.

The title reveal is this Wednesday, October 25th, and I’m ready to share the name of my work in progress and share a blurb. I can’t wait. Sign up in the bar at the bottom of the page or on the ‘subscribe’ page to be one of the first to see the reveal.

Now onto something that’s been rolling around in my mind.

Even my friends probably don’t know this about me, but I took enough art classes during undergrad that I nearly had enough credits for a minor in art. I actually added on the minor at one point when I realized how many art classes I was racking up and then dropped it as quickly as the nude model dropped his trousers one day on campus while I was painting. I’m sure it was a great, informative, and educational experience for many, but that part was just not for me. I guess you could say my teenage self was shy in that area.

Art, in areas other than writing, is not where I’d say my talents shine, but I enjoy it. It’s relaxing to me. The college campus I was on had a huge barn-like building that, while I was there, was the art barn. I’ve been back since, and the campus has changed, so I’m not sure if it’s still the art barn, but there were some fun times in that building—and some fun people, students and professors alike.

But there was one professor that I hope I never forget. What a wacky man.

That’s how I saw him at the time, at least. He was a free spirit of sorts. He lost our grades once in between bars downtown one night. We had the fun surprise of starting our semester grade over from scratch. I’m not sure exactly what I think of him now. Maybe I still think he’s a bit kooky, but I have so much more respect for him now in how he saw the world, in how he lived; he didn’t merely exist.

I used to be a very literal person and he knew this. One day he came into class, waited for everyone to quiet, and looked out the window. He then called on me and asked if I thought he should cancel class that day to let us all go home and enjoy the rain. It was a beautiful, sunny day outside. Everyone’s eyes fell on me with great anticipation. I was so confused. Of course, I get it now, but my freshman self couldn’t fit his manner inside the box which I thought and lived.

He pushed us, though. Well, maybe stretched us is the better word. And for that, I’m more grateful than I ever knew I’d be.

The most valuable lesson he taught, resonates intensely with me now, not in drawing, but in my writing. The lesson of negative space.

He walked us outside of the art barn and over to the radio tower on campus—not terribly far away from what I remember. Our subject that day was the radio tower. We could sit, stand, lay down in the grass. It didn’t matter. The one thing we couldn’t do was draw the radio tower, or the trees, or the buildings around it. We were asked to draw the negative space, to draw what wasn’t there.

I had to leave my comfortable box and try to find a way to portray the air in between the lattice of bars. I had to find a way to show what wasn’t there. This resulted in a group of students drawing blocks of air in between the bars and uneven grids mildly resembling a radio tower.

This sits with me now in such a deep way when I think of my writing. I come back to the concept in my mind when I think of the ideas I have for stories.

I write horror and dark fiction and in those stories, I often dream up things that just aren’t part of real life. But I find a way to portray the things in life that aren’t actually there or don’t have a palpable substance to frame and showcase the evident truths of humanity and our existence that lie in plain sight, blending in with other concrete structures and filling the negative space in life to avoid showing their flaws.

This perpetual flow of negative space is where that which isn’t seen allows us to see what is. Click To Tweet

This perpetual flow of negative space is where that which isn’t seen allows us to see what is. It’s where my mind submerges itself in an imaginative world showing the beauty and repugnance in our own tangible, visible reality. It’s where my stories come to life.

Until next time,

Happy Screaming.


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S.L. Ember

Horror and dark fiction writer.

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