How to Avoid White Room Syndrome

by: Carlos Delgado

Have you ever found yourself halfway through reading a book and thought Where are they? or Who’s talking? Unless your mind was wandering, chances are this disorientation was caused by a lack of grounding descriptions in the text.

In order for an audience to understand a scene, writers must establish the fundamentals: the speaker, location, and action. Establishing the who, what, where, when, and why will help your readers avoid the phenomenon commonly referred to as White Room Syndrome.

What does White Room Syndrome look like in a video advertising script?

EXAMPLE:

In the above example, the reader has no idea who the man is, where he is, or any context for his audio. He stands in a white room.

So, how do we avoid White Room Syndrome?

Ask yourself the following questions at the opening of every video segment and answer them with concrete details in your VIDEO descriptions:

Let’s revisit our hungry voice floating around in the white room — but this time using some of our questions.

Who is speaking? STEVE. (Hi STEVE!)

Where is STEVE? STEVE is in his boxers on his ratty old couch. Feet on the coffee table. (From these two short sentences, the reader understands who STEVE is. Remember, we’re looking for concrete details. What can we see? What can we touch? What can we hear?)

What is STEVE doing? He’s scrolling through social media on his phone. (In advertising, this action should match what is being said in the Audio section. How does the action work with the ad’s CTA? Here, let’s say the CTA is to download the DOMINO’S APP.)

Of course, grounding details and descriptions are no excuse for dumping a whole backstory or paragraph of purple prose describing the “warm emotions blossoming from April showers.”

When trying to avoid White Room Syndrome, it’s easy to overcorrect. Remember, we want to stick to what the audience needs to know in order to understand what’s happening.

Let’s take one last look at STEVE with some tweaks to our scene.

Oh, no! Will STEVE kill someone for a pizza or will the Domino’s App save him from eternal damnation? There’s only one way to find out!

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