What exactly is White Room Syndrome?

The term White Room Syndrome refers to a common writing problem. Most writers will be familiar with White Room Syndrome, even if they haven’t yet heard it referred to by that name.

White Room Syndrome refers to writing that lacks grounding in physical reality – lacks even basic description, in terms of setting. Scenes that might as well be taking place in a white room – hence the name.

Personally, I’ve been guilty of this, to varying degrees at different times, as a writer.

I become so immersed, at times, in the dramatic situations my characters are going through. I get deeply involved with writing dialogue, as well as describing the thoughts and emotions of my viewpoint character, or characters.

And, whilst I might be very aware myself of where the scene is located, I may neglect to communicate this, through my actual words. I would have described this as my characters floating around in the middle of nowhere, but White Room Syndrome is probably a clearer way of expressing the same idea.

So, that’s what White Room Syndrome is, but how do we fix the issue, in our stories?

Identify specific instances of this problem occurring, throughout your work. As you become increasingly aware of it, you may well be able to stop yourself from White Room writing, in the first place.

But, actually, it’s not that important to cure White Room Syndrome in your early drafts. It’s generally something that you will be looking out for at the revision and editing stage.

Having identified scenes that need attention – basically, your White Room Scenes – it should be relatively straightforward to improve your prose, and make them feel more real. My post about describing locations might be of some help, and also, one that I wrote about how to create atmosphere in your fiction.

Basically, you need to add details, such as physical descriptions of places, and sensory details – remembering to make use of all five senses. Maybe more action tags, within your dialogue? There are so many options.

And you don’t need to overdo it.

Less is so often more, in fact. Simply provide sufficient tangible information, to give the impression that your story is actually taking place somewhere, as opposed to anywhere, or nowhere, or in possibly some random white room.


I hope that this post was useful, and will help you to notice, and rectify, any problems with White Room Syndrome, in your own fiction.

My post on when to show and when to tell does relate somewhat, and might be of interest.


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