Thursday, March 16, 2017

What Writers Should Skip

You probably smiled, snickered, or even laughed aloud when you read the poster above. Take a second look and you might take it more seriously. What parts of a fiction story or perhaps some creative nonfiction do readers skip?

In a nutshell, it's the boring parts, the ones that don't move the story along. And what parts are those?

Lengthy description:  No one wants to read a three paragraph description of a tree. Usually, one sentence can take care of it. If a character is in a terrible situation, don't take time to describe some inanimate object. Take care of that character's problem instead. Exception would be if the tree has a huge significance in what has happened, or will later in the story. We've all read books where the author takes pages to describe the setting. Sense of place is important but less is better in that technique, too.

Too much technical stuff:  The only people who lap this up are those who live or work in a technical world themselves. Most other people will do no more than scan long sections involving some technical aspect. How much does the storyline depend on knowing the small details of how something works? If it does, then include it. If it is only what the author considers an interesting aside, consider either skipping or condensing.

Dialogue:  Keep it short and snappy rather than long and tiresome. We get information to our reader through the use of dialogue between characters. Make it too long and the reader will skip on to the next part of the story. We often hear that more dialogue would bring the story to life but perhaps too much of it could drag a story down.

Unimportant parts:  How can your story have unimportant parts? If your characters do something that has no connection to the story, something you toss in as what you think is a nice aside, then your reader may skip right on by. Two people having a picnic with the author describing the setting and what they ate and drank in detail is only of merit if there is important dialogue that pertains to the story itself or if the author is showing character traits through this means. But to just toss it in because you want a filler for some reason is not beneficial.

When you edit and revise your work, ask yourself if each section is important to the plot, the theme and the characters. Check to see if your descriptions go on and on and are too detailed. When we are doing an edit, we should try to look with a reader's eyes. So, yes, do try to leave out those parts that people skip. We don't mean to bore our readers, but sometimes we do.

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