Monday, November 8, 2010

Adding STUFF to Your Story Does Not Give It Depth

One issue I frequently see with submissions is the lack of depth in terms of character and plot development. In other words, I am looking for stories that are rich and three dimensional. I want characters that seem like they are in the room with me. I want emotions that I can feel and places I can see. I want plots that are believable. Too often, however, I see stories that are full of mindless and irrelevant "stuff".

I am almost postive that someone who read these authors stories have told them "You know, I like the foundation of what you have here but I feel like I need a bit more to get to know the characters." This is indeed very true. The reader has seen something but at this point, the author has simply created 2-dimensional characters. But, here is where the author heads off course.

Instead of providing the depth to really bring the characters alive, they simply add more scenes with the same character. They add more dialogue, or they start piling on the "telling vs. showing" narratives to supposedly give the reader more of a sense of what the room or scene looks like.

This really becomes apparent when an author, in the attempt to create "a reason for the character to act a certain way" unloads so much back story and additional problems for the character that it becomes simply too much. In cases like this, I often tell writers that the characters have so many other problems to worry about, a romance at this particular time in their life is probably far from their worries.

Think focus here. Pick one issue. Have the character really learn to live with it. Maybe the heroine has lost a job that she has been doing for all of these years. Fine. Work with that. You don't have to suddenly make it that she was fired from the job after her abusive ex has taken over the company and in a jealous fit of rage has manufactured a scheme to make her pay but will first find a way to kidnap her and then burn her dogs in a house fire.

Keep it simple.

Your job this week is to find what that single thing is that you want your writers to get from your story and flesh that out.

Have fun.



  1. Thanks Scott! Another highly insightful post. I think it's easy to go nuts when it comes to conflict development because that's part of the creative process (and it's fun to imagine the worst possible scenario times 100 for your H/H - but I have a warped sense of humor). While conflict is essential, too much of it kills the story. Two books I recently finished had so much going on that I ended up feeling completely dissatisfied. Which is not why I, or most other readers, read. Simple conflict is a good thing - as long as the story is told well.