05 May 2012

Ladling Out the Details

As writers, sometimes we need to think like a reader.
Do we really want to wade through pages of explanation regarding the character, building, setting, or world that the writer created? How much of this detail does the story require? Sometimes too much is just too much.
I can hear the objection now.
“But I’ve developed this wonderful world that I must share!”
That’s probably a great reason but we don’t need the entire world within the first chapter.
As a newer writer, or even an experienced but small audience author, our writing has to glow with each submission. We can’t take anything for granted. Two pages to explain the texture of bark isn’t necessary, unless this bark is plot specific.
Consider what might happen if a science fiction author spent time describing the exact function and reaction of every space ship drive part. Many readers would drop the book into the nearest trashcan.
What I’m talking about here are information dumps. These dreaded pages long paragraphs of details or these forced conversations about things the characters wouldn’t notice.
So how do we fix these?
If you’ve planned your plot, this is a little easier than those who write by the seat of their pants. With a preplanned plot, you can note the details required for the scene or plotline. It allows determination of which part of the world is most important. People writing by the seat of their pants need to ask themselves the question I asked earlier – Is this relevant to the plot? – and try to factor the details accordingly.
On a more specific note, look at your dialogue. Does it seem like your characters are talking about an every day device to them? If the device isn’t broken, would they notice such detail? I’ll bring real life into our discussion here. Sit down with a friend and pull out your cell phone. Everyone knows about and sees cell phones daily. They aren’t going to start discussing the phone’s gadgets unless you got a new phone they’d not seen.
Another thing to watch for is the “author aside.” This means you have a good scene, with the characters having positive actions on the plot. Then, there is this block of descriptive text from out of nowhere. That block of text is the author aside. Perhaps you felt the scene needed more detail. But you just dropped the information into the scene. Take those details and spread them across the scene, maybe a sentence or two at a time. Use the details to ramp the action. Even better, let the characters react to the details you felt the scene needed.
We can’t avoid perfectly good details, but we can be conscious of how we present the details we want to give our reader.

No comments:

Post a Comment