Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Too Much Will Ruin Your Story

One of the top reasons I pass on projects that I have requested more information about is about plotting. More specifically, it is when an author has a great idea at the beginning of the story, but instead, chooses to start adding a lot of extra STUFF to their stories. The end result is that great premise you started with is now bogged down among a bunch of useless and distracting ideas.

So, what are we talking about? Here are some of the top ideas:

  • THE CHARACTERS HAVE TOO MUCH BAGGAGE In this situation, the authors have tried to "justify" their characters behavior with a ridiculous amount of baggage. For example, if a heroine doesn't want to go on a date or get involved with someone, it is due to a prior relationship who cheated, an abusive family relationship, and, oh, why not, for the heck of it, throw in a miscarriage. While all of these might be valid, remember that the time it takes to explain and justify all of this is word count that could go to adding depth to your character and making them three-dimensional. The reality is that we can simply have a character who might feel a relationship is just not right for the time.
  • TOO MANY CHARACTERS GETTING IN THE WAY This one happens when authors need to have their characters learn something that they could probably have done on their own. Instead, they turn around, bring in a new character to tell them something and then never use that person again in the story. If you have a story in an office, we don't need to know EVERYONE in Human Resources!
  • FILLING THE STORY WITH AN EXCESSIVE AMOUNT OF UNNECESSARY INFORMATION This situation comes from authors who are writing about topics they simply do not understand. These authors start "researching" and then proceed to fill the novel with all of that "really cool research" the came across. I remember reading a historical romance where the hero was a doctor. Clearly the author found "the mother lode" of research because she spent over half a chapter describing every detail of his lab including information on how some of the instruments were developed and the exact procedures they were used for. Ask yourself, does the author REALLY NEED all of this information?
  • TOO MANY SUBPLOTS In this case the author believes that adding more subplots will add depth to the story. The reality is that it now mucks everything up and we lose sight of the main story arc. Let's take a romantic suspense story. You have the hero and heroine story arc. You have the suspense arc, but then adding in an additional arc to show us the entire underbelly of the bad guys, and maybe even a storyline revolving around the hero trying to prove something to his boss and why not have the heroine in the middle of trying to take care of her elderly family too. Ugh, just too much.

I get why you add this stuff. For some of you, it is just to increase the size of your story. The reality is that you probably didn't have a premise in the beginning that was worthy of a full novel, so you added all of the other pieces thinking that would help.

For another batch of you, it is due to your wonderful critique partners who kept asking questions as to why your character did that. Instead of giving them a basic answer, you listened to them as they created a whole new worldd that was never part of your original plan. 

In other cases, it is because you were told your stories lack depth. You seem to believe more is better and that lead you to adding in all of those extra storylines. Depth is all about giving us a three dimensional character and world. It is about giving us more scenes with the hero and heroine. 

I always recommend going back to that basic plot diagram. If what you ant doesn't fit on the plot line, don't add it. 

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