Perkinson Post: Are you a top down or bottom up writer?

So, are you a top or a bottom?

Frankly, I’m a top.

When writing a novel or a novella or a short story (or most anything), some writers will write in a “top down” style while others are “bottom up.” What does this mean? By and large, “top down” writers leave spaces and gaps in their descriptions allowing room for the reader (up there) to bring in their own ideas to the setting or the scene or even the tension in the room of the characters.  Top down writers write a shorter narrative but it does not mean that there is less substance. It is just a different style.  Less is always more. An example of a well-known top down writer might be Mitch Albom. He is a gapper for sure, but by the end of the story, the reader is no less informed, enlightened – entertained.

The “bottom up” writer leaves the reader with details and nuances of just about everything. The peanut butter residing on the kitchen knife…the kind of peanut butter…the age of the knife and design style…how long it has been sitting atop the counter, when the dog sniffed it and – oh, I forgot – the style and type of counter is central to this theme. You get the picture. A “bottom up” writer helps the reader (ahem, down there) get the complete gist of every scene – all the senses (taste, touch, smell, sight, and sound) plus an  etheric sense that the writer has, indeed, accessed the Akashic records and can truly put you there. Some readers love this insanely. A good example of a “bottom up” writer is most certainly John Irving or Pat Conroy.

As writers, however, regardless of being either a top or bottom – we, you, just need to write your story with enough detail that does NOT distract the reader and write ENOUGH to paint the picture fully so the reader can get there. We all just want to get there.

You and I need to, I guess, meet somewhere in the middle. Common ground. Common ground that is grassy – no meadowy – no, a field somewhere in England whose history…

You see…if I can just find that Long Island happy medium.

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