It Was Raining, You Know? Did I Tell You It Was Raining? A Nor’easter If Ever There Was One

Rehashing what the reader already knows.

Definition: Hanging on a plot point too long as a way to make sure the reader gets it, OR as a way to boost word count.

This is a big struggle for a lot of writers. I see this in published books all the time. The heroine ponders the hero’s invitation to dinner for three chapters. The hero ponders asking the heroine to dinner for a whole chapter. The heroine ponders her future husband while pondering what she has to do to save the family estate – for sixty pages.

Don’t linger! Move the story forward.

Set the problem once and move one. Hint at it one more time. The reader gets it. Then answer the question/solve the problem.

This kind of circular writing happens because the author is holding off a major plot or character reveal for “the right time in the book.”

Meaning: “Twenty-five thousand words and I’m not ready to drop the bomb.”

Bring on the story! Don’t hold back. Pace yourself, build the tension but when it’s at the highest point, don’t back off and recycle the dilemma. Drop the bombs!

How do you avoid rehashing what the reader already knows? Do your character work.

Once the hero has asked the heroine out on a date, and she’s said “I’ll think about it,” move to her world – work or family. In this scene, we see why she might not want to go out with the hero. Her roommate loves him. She’s engaged to another man. Her father is very ill and she feels loyal to him. She’s in the middle of a big case at work and can’t risk the distraction of love.

You also introduce other plot problems the protagonist faces. Her boss is selling the business and she wants to buy it. Her mother wants to divorce her father. Her sister is bridezilla.

The secondary problem should be a part of the protagonist story journey and story question. It should factor into her problem, what she wants and why.

For example, if she can’t decide if she wants to go out with Handsome Hunk, the next scene shouldn’t be of her at the car lot buying her dream car and driving off with her friends.

Unless it relates to the story. In this case, the heroine buying a car is her first ever act of independence. If she goes on a date with Handsome Hunk, she feels like she’s giving up a piece of herself.

The struggle with “rehashing” is the author isn’t convinced the reader “gets” what he’s trying to communicate. But the reader does. OR, the author doesn’t know the story himself so he keeps going over what we already know.

Often, in retelling scenes, only one or two pertinent lines of information are delivered. Combine them with another scene. Don’t make the reader bob for plot-apples. It’s too frustrating.

Tie it up. Drop the “bombs.” Let ‘em fly.

While writing Dining with Joy I’d planned the black moment to be when Joy is outed as being a fake on national television. But as I got to the middle of the book, I realized the time to reveal her secret was NOW. Not in another 20K words. I was floundering. Writing in circles. So I decided to drop my “bomb” and see how the story fell out.

I then refigured her black moment and wrote to that point. I felt the story was stronger than what I planned.

Rule:  Don’t hold back a “big reveal” just to get to a certain word count.

Workshop It: Go over one of your scenes. It’s it just retelling what you’ve already told. Is part of the scene working while part of the scene is not?


Ten Common Author Mistakes. #4

You do realize these common author mistakes I’m blogging about are my opinion only and not subject to any known or award winning authors.

I formulated these ten things while on a reading spree this summer. So, take them for what they are worth.

Okay, numero quatro!

He said, She Said. They Came, They Saw, They Went

Leaving the reader suspended in time and space.

This one actually surprised me. But I read several novels recently — one a YA and the other an historical — and I was lost on where I was as the reader. I wasn’t sure how much time had advance. The scene’s stage had little to no description. I couldn’t get a feel for the “space” the characters lived in.

In the YA, the protagonist kept talking about the trip she was taking, where she was going but I had NO idea where she was to start.

You’ve heard it said: Enter late, exit early. Don’t use too much prose to open a scene. Don’t explain. Jump right into the action. All of that is great advice. Except, it can get confusing on just how to set up a scene.

We’ve talked about story world a lot here at My Book Therapy. Part of story world is not only who the protagonist is and what he or she does for a living, his or her life, dreams and goals, friends and family, but time and space. Employing the five senses.

Where are we in the story as the reader? What time is it? What are we doing? What’s the angle of light falling through the window or door? Are their smells in the room? Sound? What does the table feel like when the protagonist smooths her hand over the surface. Are we inside our out? Is it raining? Cold or hot?

We need these elements to anchor us into the story. Give the reader the boundaries of the scene, a view of the protagonist world, draws the reader into the story. Don’t leave them outside looking in.

At the same time, don’t over write. Don’t tell the reader every nuance, the type of lace on the end of the polka dot curtain and that the material was bought at the local fabric store that’s now defunct. Don’t tell us how green the grass is, just that it’s green. You don’t have to reminisce about a snow ball fight when the heroine was young as she looks at the window at big white fluffy flakes.

Ways to anchor time and space:

Open the scene with a time stamp. “It was Wednesday at noon before Rachel looked up from her work. She’d been at the computer since seven and so far, her research delivered nothing new on the case.”

Add a line or two in dialog. “Mandy, are you coming to work?”

“Tuesday is my day off.”

“It’s Wednesday at noon. You were supposed to be here at nine.”

Add a line after dialog. “Rachel, I love you.” He’d been thinking about telling her since Saturday night. Five days later, he blurted his heart’s intent over a Wednesday lunch at the mall. Smooth man, smooth.

Add it as part of the plot plan. “When should we get together?” Rachel looked at her smart phone. Tuesday, 8:01. “Tomorrow?” she said.

Let us see what the characters are doing. Think how you would do it in real life and mold it to your story and tap away at the keyboard.

Rule: Give the reader a sense of time and space. Draw them into the scene.

Workshop It: Take one of your scenes and enhance the time and space.