Moving too fast

by Rosie

Hi, I'm trying to write a book, but I'm worried that the story is progressing too fast. On page six a lot has happened. But the thing is, I can't seem to find the line between droning on and not droning on enough. Do you have any advice?

Answer: The first thing I would suggest you ask yourself is if you are doing to much "telling," that is, too much summary of the events and not enough "showing" or scenes.

Summary moves a story quickly, but lacks the emotional impact of a well-crafted scene. Scenes allow the reader to feel as though they are in the story, watching it unfold in real time.

If you think of a story as a series of important events linked by cause and effect, then summary is best used to transition from one key event to the next. However, the events themselves should be shown, so that the reader experiences their importance. Simply summarizing an event conveys the impression that it's unimportant.

What makes a scene different than summary, or makes showing different from telling, is the level of specificity.

In scenes, you present the specific sensory details--the things the main character or narrator (or reader if he were there) would see, hear, smell, feel, taste, etc. You present them in the order your character/narrator perceives them, so that the reader feels as though he is actually present, moving through the events. (And you may have to include little bits of exposition or the main character's thoughts to help the reader understand
what's happening.)

Summary is more like a newspaper account of what happened, with most of the step-by-step details and perceptions left out. It's objective rather than subjective.

Summary often presents conclusions about what happened, whereas scenes present evidence from which the reader can draw his own conclusions.

It's like the difference between saying, "John was tall" (conclusion) versus, "John stooped slightly to avoid hitting his head on the doorframe" (evidence).

You might check out this article for more about this...

As for the other problem, "droning on," you have to develop a sense of which details are important in a scene. The important or "telling" details give information the reader needs to fully appreciate the characters, theme, plot, etc. If a detail does not add anything of significance, it can be left out.

However, it's easier to have too much detail that you can edit out later than to have too little. Too little detail can mean no emotional impact. Also, if you have to add details later, those details may change the story, requiring a lot more revision to other sections.

One final tip: If you find you are summarizing events and moving through them too quickly, it may be that you yourself are not connecting emotionally to them. Try to imagine the scene more clearly in your mind. Be the character as you write. Get in touch with the character's perceptions, reactions, thoughts, and emotions moment by moment. Let the character's journey be your journey as you write and later it can become the reader's journey.

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