Overlooking the excitement of being a father-to-be, sitting in the OBGYM can be fairly boring. The absence of a laptop (left it at home) and the fact that my game of brick breaker was abruptly interrupted (thanks, Jen) certainly didn’t help either. But one thing did. The windows. Permanently bolted shut, they were about as authentic as Twinkies, but I was nevertheless drawn to them (also true for Twinkies ). I watched sunlight trickle through, clouds roll past, the occasional bird collide violently into the pane (I’m kidding, of course…it was more of a gentle thud). Trapped within concrete and steel barriers, two sheets of glass saved me from an uncomfortable fit of claustrophobia.
This same phenomenon applies to writing.
When two characters are interacting, the reader has no access to information about the world outside them. She is, in effect, trapped within walls of dialogue. Not a place where anyone wants to stay for too long.
So why not give the reader some windows? Illuminate that dialogue with flashes of action that reveal the world around them. Not only does it engage the reader, but it gives us an opportunity to infuse some tone/theme/tension into our writing, turning pages of exposition into a narrative as entertaining as action.
Just don’t over do it. I can’t think of the literary equivalent to shades if you do.