Feb 2, 2010

Keeping Up

"Where did the plot go?"

I've seen this a few times in novels (even published ones). Pacing, for some, can be the most difficult issue of storytelling if you let it. It can ruin characters, crunch on descriptions, and tear down an entire plot--key words are if you let it.

Think of it as Godzilla, decimating entire novels.

When it comes to pacing, most people wonder these Q's:

1.Is skipping over the boring parts okay?
2.How do I give the reader a breather between very heavy action scenes?
3.How do I keep the pages turning when the stakes aren't life or death?

I think I'll focus on numero uno today. And save the other two for the rest of the week, depending on how much I feel like writing.

1. Answer: Yes, skipping over the boring parts is you job. You're the story's filter; you decide which parts are compelling/facsinating, will move the story forward, and leave your readers breathless. There is no such thing as a necessary boring part.

Let me repeat that.

There is NO SUCH THING as a necessary boring part. If whatever you have going out is boring, uh, make it interesting. Okay? If you can't, and refuse to make every sentence, every chapter interesting, then you've failed as a writer. 

To make a plot interesting you should have critical conflict, action,a plot constantly moving forward, and something that's put at risk. "Well," you ask, "how do I make sure every scene moves my story forward?"

Easy. You figure out what changes, and then change it. If absolutely nothing--and I mean nothing--makes the scene interesting, you'll have to kill it. Chop its head off, douse it in fire, or jam a stake in its heart. Whatever your forte is, do it. if there's important info in there, break it into bits and sprinkle it into other sections of your novel, between characters, or maybe even in dialogue. 

Your turn!

I challenge everyone to identify a boring part in your novel. Yes, we all have one. Don't think you're are above it Mr. Bob. Try asking yourself what you had a hard time writing? What part did you write so/so because a point "needed" to get across? Or, if you're someone who can write 20,000 words on The Life and Times of My Pepper Shaker, with daily entries on how it's just sitting there, pass it on to your critique group (or beta reader) and see if they fall out of their chair, passed out cold, while reading it. More than likely, someone will say, "That was interesting," with strain on the last word and failure to make eye contact with you.

Then, test out your boring section by asking yourself if it a) adds info that will lead to the story's conclusion b) develop an essential part of your character c) inserts critical conflict.

Tomorrow will be my WoW and then I'll continue my posts on pacing with plot breathers. Feel free to leave something in the comment section, if you have anything to say!


SB said...

I love reading your blog -- one day, should I choose to take on the challenge of a novel, I will start here first...only then will i feel equipped enough to go at it...!

Ash. Elizabeth said...

Aww. Thanks : ) As long as someone enjoys my posts, I'm happy.

Jenn (Books At Midnight) said...

Yes! I'm not a writer myself, but I love your posts too; they're very interesting and amusing to read. And I can't tell you how much better it makes a book for me if there are no boring parts. It's all relative, so it's hard to judge, but "boring" can make me put a book down and that's always a no-no. Great post! :)

VR Barkowski said...

Excellent post, Ash. Sometimes the boring parts are the hardest for a writer to cut. Invariably, those places are where our best metaphors, similes and descriptions show up - which is exactly why they're so boring. We're too busy being "writerly" (as one of my instructors used to call it) to move the story forward.

Shelli said...

you won today on my blog :)

Elle Strauss said...

I don't think I'm concsious about writing breather scenes. Maybe I should be? I'm waiting for your to tell me.:)

Nothing is more true than the saying you can't please everybody. That's especially true with writing and books.

ps: hope everything is okay and that the last few days haven't been major.