Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Don't Clutter Your Story With Stuff

I was talking with one of my writers today on a new project and this came up in the conversation. We were talking about adding "stuff" to your story.

One of the things I see too often, are authors who have a great initial story premise and then start filling it with additonal subplots, conflicts and other things that detract from the story. In many cases, I honestly believe it is coming from critique partners who ask why something is happening to the character. Instead of making a rational decision for that motivation, the author will add huge elements of backstory just to give the character a reason.

I see this also with great pieces of women's fiction. Again, the author has a great premise or conflict to build the story around. The protagonist is all set for dealing with the issue, and then they start adding a romance, or additional problems to deal with.

In reality, what we would love to see is a focused attention on that one issue. Create one thing to deal with in the story and do that well. Muddying the water with all of these additional points just weakens the main storyline you are trying to tell.

I have told writers this before when we talk about research papers. In these cases, writers will often add sections to their paper because they "think" they need it. What I get them to focus on is whether the idea fits with their topic or their thesis. Sure the back history of an economic event might be interesting, but if you are only focusing on the effect of it, that history might not be relevant to the thesis, and therefore, needs to be cut from the paper.

So, think about your writing. Can you simplify the story and get rid of some extra "stuff"? That word count you take out can now go to enhancing the character development or the world building.


1 comment:

  1. I wonder if some writers think that extra stuff is world- or character-building. After all, it's pretty rare for anyone's life to be centered around one thing only. We all have jobs, relationships, etc., running concurrently. They probably hope to flesh out and make their characters more realistic by giving them extra issues.

    This is an area where it's OK for characters to differ from real people, though. Stories need to be more focused than real life, and readers easily lose interest if they don't know where to focus.