The following is an excerpt of my new release: Conquering Writing Pressures: Living a Balanced Writing Life in a Busy World.
Our first drafts can sometimes end up shorter than we would like them to be. This is often due to missing details, a need for better descriptions, areas where we did more telling than showing… We can’t always expect everything to come to mind when we need it to.
Hooks are how the story grabs the reader’s attention and keeps it page after page. Entertaining and surprising them, forming an emotional connection between them, the story, and its characters.
Infodumping is the number one cause of readers skimming a story. It causes the story to drone on and on, explaining everything and leaving nothing to the imagination. It tells the readers things they already know, either from the story or common knowledge. And bores the readers by repeating information and not allowing them to connect to the story or the characters.
Too much backstory can bring a story’s pace to a standstill, bogging it down in insignificant details of a character’s past, world-building elements, or history of the current conflict. It supplies information outside the scope of the story the reader does not need to know and often leaves little to the imagination. It steals all secrets and surprises, leaving the reader to drown in boredom because they already know everything ahead of time. But that doesn’t mean all backstory is bad.
A well-told story is a combination of showing and telling. As readers, we want to experience the story through the main character’s eyes, but we don’t want to get bogged down in details we don’t care about. After all, it’s much easier to skim through to find the more interesting bits. But we also don’t want to be told why something is happening. We want to see it happen. Showing and telling both have their place in a story. So, how do we know which to use?
Have you ever noticed when you’re doing or reading something you love, time seems to fly by? And before you know it, it’s over, and you’re left wishing it had lasted longer? The opposite could be said for the things you hate. Time seems to drag, and you wish it would just end already. The speed of your prose can have the same effect.
If we want our readers to form an emotional connection with our main character, they must be able to get into their heads. They need to experience their reactions, feelings, and thoughts about their surroundings and the events around them.
When there are multiple characters in a scene, it can be difficult to keep track of who’s doing the talking. It’s so much easier when we’re writing dialogue for only two people. All we have to do is let them take turns and, in longer sections of dialogue, occasionally insert a speech tag or bit of action to keep it clear who’s talking. But once we start adding more characters in, it soon becomes confusing without dialogue tags to keep readers from getting lost. This may work as a quick fix but isn’t always the best solution.
I love stories where all the pieces fall into place and end in ways I would never have expected. But once I knew the answer, I could see the clues the author placed clear as day. It may look easy when you’re reading, but the truth is foreshadowing takes a lot of time and planning to get things just right.