Wednesday, March 19, 2014

If Your Characters Can Say It, Then Let Them

Here's a quick tip to "tighten up those stories." In this case, it deals with characters, information and dialogue.

I think there are a lot of authors who feel the need to insert secondary characters into stories just to give the main characters someone to talk to. Often, the characters are there simply to ask how the scene we just read in the prior chapter went. The goal is to, apparently, provide some insight for the reader as to the thoughts of the main character, while, at the same time, preventing there being "too much narration from one POV."

Even though this approach seems fairly logical, the problem I see far too often is the secondary character really getting in the way of the story. We have to now learn more about who this random person is (which requires more word count). We have to create a setting and a scene just for this so-called "introspection" (which also requires more word count). 

Here is a typical scene. The heroine has just gone to a party with the hero. It is still early in their relationship but she is starting to feel some signs of liking the guy. Maybe the date ended in a great kiss, groping or who knows what else. But, now we need some introspection. We need to know she feels this might not be the right thing at this time in her life. 
  • BAD APPROACH - Now we insert a scene at the office the next day where the "perky" best friend needs to know all of the details so they have to go to lunch and, over a full scene of getting the food, the friend flirting with the hot waiter and the descriptions of the friend of how she seems to have it all... you get the idea... At the end of the full scene, the heroine discusses her feelings and the friend gives her permission to "have fun." 
  • GOOD APPROACH - The better approach eliminates the best friend. Look, we just needed the ending of that prior scene. We only needed 2-4 paragraphs to say what we need to say. At the end of the date, when she is sitting at home she can think those over before going to sleep. TA! DA!
In other words, Keep It Simple!

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