|Writing Wide, Exercises in Creative Writing,
by Billie A Williams © 2006
Wide Space Between the Front Teeth
Compares writing, keeping secrets, and the effects of a space between your front
teeth…meaning that you cannot keep a secret. In addition, this essay explores how to
write while holding your secret, letting the secret loose a little at a time—the way you
would create a mystery.
“It was the secrets of heaven and earth that I desired to learn.”
Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, English Poet
Exploring Secret keeping, Writing and The Wide Space Between Someone’s Front
My Mother used to say that having a wide space between your front teeth meant you
could not keep a secret. I noticed that he had a wide space between his teeth. He
being the character I was creating to carry my story. Rather like a younger Rip Torn of
the televisions series “Topper”. Topper was a ghost, a butler and a lot of fun to watch.
But, he had that very wide space between his teeth and he couldn’t keep a secret.
As a child, I pictured a fat bubble gum pink secret squirting out from between those
wide apart teeth and splatting against the secret receiver’s ear. That would effectively
plug the receiver’s ear and block the message. We could say, the secret had been
teased, but was not totally given. Basically, that would be the approach an author
writing a mystery would use.
Now to use that image for your story, to show you how to write, picture this. Did you
ever notice when you chew bubble gum that as the bubble gum is warmed you want—
almost have to—blow bubbles? Think about what it is that you do when you blow a
First, you push your tongue into the gum and stretch and try to force it between your
teeth all the while you try to hold the largest portion of the gum back.
Then you blow, slowly and carefully. As the bubble grows you blow slower and
eventually pinch it off, before it bursts. Or if you choose you deliberately blow until it
Writing is like that. When you write you try to keep the secret of the whole story
contained, but it is anxious to ooze out between the barriers and splat against the
listener or reader’s ear. It dares them to listen harder, dig deeper, pay attention; a
secret is about to be revealed. A great pink, sweet, sticky secret is about to be given
away for the price of listening or reading, closely.
Our words are contained by the white picket fence rows of teeth, except for that space
that separates upper and lower jaws when we open our mouth. We really do want our
story to leak out. We want our story to escape through that gap in a measured
fashion. Chapter by chapter, beginning, middle and end the book should leak onto
That is how it is with writing. All your story’s secrets are contained in that bubble. You
held them without letting them explode for your reader, until you were ready. The
reader gets the pleasure of seeing the bubble develop as he turns the pages, breath
by breath or chapter by chapter. The bubble of your story gets bigger and the edges
start getting thinner so that the reader begins to see through the bubble, to expect
something is going to happen. He sees though that bubble to the wide space in
those teeth that can’t keep a secret.
When enough air (facts or details) have been forced into the story bubble, it will burst
with a loud bang and all the air, or details, rush out as the climax of your story. The
bubble collapses in on itself, in literature that is called the denouement. The narrator
sucks the gum (story) back into his mouth to begin yet another story on another day.
The reader, meanwhile, has had a sharp surprise. He felt the rush of air and little
spatters of gum (your story facts) spurt into his face when the story burst full-blown
into its finish. Aha! The reader says – why didn’t I see that coming, or he thinks; “I
knew that all along – the bursting bubble just confirmed it for me.”
The narrator, with the wide space between his front teeth, finally told the story’s secret
and everyone is satisfied looking forward to reading the next delightful tale.
TRY THIS EXERCISES
1. Write a story pretending you are teaching some one how to blow a bubble. Be
sure to have a beginning, middle and end just the way a story should go.
2. Using one of the quotes below as a story starter, write a paragraph about
Want more? Go here to find the complete book Writing Wide, Exercises in Creative
“Journalists belong in the gutter because that is where the ruling classes throw their
guilty secrets.” Gerald Priestland, English Writer & Journalist.
“For secrets are edged tools, and must be kept from children and from fools.” John
Dryden, English Poet & Playwright.
Pens In Motion
please send me an
billie williams with
e-course in the
subject line and I
will get you the
I also have a
which is only a
send an email to
on that as well.
6-week course in
the subject line.