What is going on out there? I have had a wave of submissions slogging across my desk lately with the most inactive writing I have seen in a long time. Look people, when the only action taking place in the book is me turning the page, then we clearly have a huge problem!
It odes seem to me that I have brought this up before but maybe, in the heat of the summer, we have all forgotten this. Stories have to start with movement. No, let me change that a bit. Stories need to have movement. The story has to have a final destination, and that is the climax and conclusion that we see is going to come, but we are unclear as to how the characters are going to get there.
Let’s start with the beginning. Your stories have to start with movement. I know most of you seem to think your readers need a ton of backstory, just to “understand where the characters are coming from,” but that does not, and should not happen in the opening pages of the book. I have actually seen a couple of submissions lately where it is the entire first chapter. This is far from a way to wake the reader up. Sure the information might be necessary for chapters 3, 4, and 5 but by that point I will have forgotten the information. You will have lost me by chapter 2 as I try to take 15 pages of manuscript and try to make it all blend with chapter 2. Oh, and by the way, you don’t have to start the story with the action of the main conflict in the book. Give us a chance to warm up to the characters before you drop that bomb.
Now, let’s talk about the introspection argument. You have been plugging along in the story and suddenly you realize that the readers need to know the motivation and the internal struggles of the character. O.K. that’s fine, but please, insert that information bit by bit. Don’t just unload it all in paragraphs of narration. Where I really get frustrated is when I read stories where the narration is dumped right in the middle of a heated fight, or yes, even in the middle of a hot steamy sex scene. It’s like watching a movie on TV. The building is about to blow up, the hero and heroine are inside the building and you know they are trying to get out of the building… and then the commercials come on with “and we’ll be right back.” Huh? ARRRRRGGGGHHH!!!!!
The final problem I have seen are the stories that again, just plod along with no real final destination in mind. Hey, I don’t need to know the conclusion at the end of chapter 1 but I do have to see an issue that the characters are going to have to work out before I close that book. This is the thesis of your story. What do you intend to get out of it? Now, I won’t even get on the subject of plotters and pantsters here but for those of you who read this, you know where I would take that to.
Please writers, keep that action in the story. Keep it moving. Make this a page turner. Make me want to not put the book down.
Now, off to get some coffee!
Scott C. Eagan