An element that enriches a story
What’s happening “between the lines” can be the most involving aspect of a character-driven novel or screenplay. In the following passage from Ann Tyler’s The Accidental Tourist, travel writer, Macon Leary, brings his Welsh corgi, Edward, to Muriel Pritchett’s kennel in hopes of boarding him there. At first, he has the impression that she’s resisting his patronage.
“Please,” Macon said, “I’m about to catch a plane. I’m leaving for a week, and I don’t have a soul to look after him. I’m desperate, I tell you.” From the glance she shot him, he sensed he had surprised her in some way.
“Can’t you leave him with your wife?” she asked.
“If I could do that,” he said, “Why would I be standing here?”
“Oh,” she said. “You’re not married.”
“Well, I am, but she’s living elsewhere. They don’t allow pets.”
She came out from behind the counter. She was wearing very short red shorts; her legs were like sticks.
“I’m a divorcy myself,” she said. “I know what you’re going through.”
(He reveals that Edward had bitten an attendant at another kennel, but seemingly unfazed by this admission, she bends down and pets the dog.)
“So will you keep him?” Macon asked.
“Oh, I guess,” she said, straightening. “”If you’re desperate.” She stressed the word-fixing Macon with those small brown eyes-as if giving it more weight than he had intended. “Fill this out,” she told him, and handed him a form from a stack on the counter. “Your name and address and when you’ll be back. Don’t forget to put when you’ll be back.”
Macon nodded, uncapping his fountain pen.
“I’ll most likely see you again when you come to pick him up,” she said. “I mean if you put the time of day to expect you. My name’s Muriel.”
“Is this place open evenings?” Macon asked.
“Every evening but Sundays. Till eight.”
“Muriel Pritchett,” she said.
By its conclusion, this scene is mostly about boarding a pet—riiiight.