Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Advancing the plot

Taking time out to divert my attention from copyediting. A fresh look gives you sharper focus, and that means thinking about something else for a few days.

I've been reading, and one of the books I chose, while the story is good, suffers from unnecessary detail. As a story teller, when you tell your best friend "what happened when I went to the fair" or some other event that happened in your life, you leave out the things they don't care about. You'll tell them about the concert on the main stage, about the rides and games, about the livestock, if applicable. You're not going to tell them you left the fair and had dinner in town unless that's relevant to the fair for some reason, say "and then I saw one of the clowns, in costume, at the restaurant!" If I was telling my girlfriend a story and stopped it to tell her about a side trip into town to shop, she'd very impatiently ask me what happened at the fair, tell me to get out of the weeds in order to direct me back to the topic at hand.

When I'm writing, I often suffer from "author intrusion"-- information I need to tell the story, but which the reader doesn't need or want, at least not all at once. It can be drizzled in a little at a time, but an "info dump" will take you out of the story at hand. An example?

She heard a bump in the basement. "Is anybody down there" she called down the stairs as she flipped on the light. She was wearing blue jeans and sneakers and was glad she'd put her hair up in a bun.

When your heroine is about to go walking into danger, do you care what she's wearing? or how she's wearing her hair? I think not! You want to know what's in that basement! This information is relevant to the story, but it might come earlier on, or later, if she, say, falls and tears a hole in her new blue jeans. That's another way to "show" your readers what she's wearing without stopping the story to tell you.

While background information and a character's history, or backstory, is important to a novel, when it doesn't advance the story forward, it can be the difference between someone who reads a novel in one sitting and someone who might take days to slog through it (or decide not to finish it because the author keeps straying from the action).

While I'm reviewing my second draft of Rising Mist (it's getting closer!), I'm keeping these types of scenes in mind, how much time I take away from the plot, along with dozens of other silly mistakes that happen when you write a novel. Another thing I need to keep sharp on is how often I repeat information. To the point of "oh yeah," or "I got it already, can you tell me something new?" (That has been a bigger problem for me in this book!)

So back to work for me. Did I tell you I have a cover? Very excited for the new release! I'll keep you posted.

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