dull story

by jackie buchanan
(London, UK)

Question: I am writing a full length story on my walk from Seville to Santiago. Originally, it was a type of guide book for other people who might want to walk it and to give them some information. But, it worked itself into a fiction type story, even though it is all true. The first 40,000 words are interesting active and fiction-like with characters and events happening almost every day.

However, in the second half of the book, there is no conflict and hardly any doubt. There are no characters who make lasting impressions and the scenery is too samey to spend loads of words on it. But I have been working on the book for a year and really want to write it and keep to the truth. Is there any way forward in the dullness?

Thank you


Answer: How did you cope with the dullness on the trip? That would be my first question.

If you were fitting the story into a typical dramatic structure, different acts can explore different things. If act one is (perhaps) preparation, motivation, and beginning of the journey, act two might be about the more social aspects of the journey, act three about the isolation, and monotony, and act four the resolution - arriving at the end, your thoughts about the journey, wisdom learned, etc.

There's no reason act three has to be as long as act two. Act three might also be more concerned with the inner experience than the external.

Of course I don't know what the experience was like for you, and this story might not need quite as strong a dramatic arc as some. That said, if this was a story about a struggle, act three would be where you were tempted to give up or where you had your epiphany, where you chose to become a better person, made a key decision, etc.

It is also possible that, if little happens in this section of the journey, that you simply leave it out. Maybe the big climax happens much earlier, and you can simply cut from that to the moment you arrive in Santiago. It's never a good idea to bore your reader with things that are not relevant to the meaning of the story. (Just like, if you were shooting a detective film, out of a 72.5 hour stakeout, you would leave out the 72.4 hours in which nothing happens).

In this type of story, where the story world is a large part of what will hold the reader's interest, you can get away with a lot more description and a little less emotion or plot. But as you say, there's no point repeating more of the same type of stuff.

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dull story
by: Anonymous

Thank you Glen. That was helpful. The book is a true account and also supposed to be a guidebook of sorts to the aspiring pilgrim as well as the story so has practical facts woven into it. The 'chapters' are the daily stages because I don't know how else to write them so I couldn't leave any stages out without it looking odd. But I do think that I could look at my inner feelings.

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