Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Getting Rid of the Boring Stuff

Robin with friend and Trixie, 1952 by Peter Samuelson (20thc.) I’m writing this post from the pool (again.) Yes, it’s either the pool, movies,or the skating rink when it’s this hot and my daughter is looking for something to do.

There are plenty of people here, joining me in escaping the heat. The conversations that I’ve overheard have been repetitive and boring (I really can’t help but eavesdrop. Really.) :)

“Jonathan! I said to get out of the pool, young man. It’s time for us to go. Where are your goggles? What?! You’ve lost another pair?”

People are also moving very slowwwwly in the heat. They’re really just milling around. I can’t say much because I’ve been here 3 1/2 hours, myself. But I’ll spare you the play by play of my afternoon here. It would drag on and on ad nauseum.

The conversations I’ve overheard definitely aren’t good examples of sparkling dialogue. And a play-by-play of a boring afternoon isn’t something to stick in a manuscript, either. We don’t have to spend every second with our protagonist. My afternoon, for instance, could be summed up by: “Elizabeth spent several hours at the pool, keeping an eye on her daughter and penciling revisions in the margins of her soggy manuscript.”

My slow-mo afternoon got me thinking about all the boring things we should spare our readers in our manuscripts. Yesterday was more about things that just jar us from a smooth reading experience…today I’m thinking about the boring stuff that just drags the story’s pace down to a crawl :

Backstory in one big dump. Too much setting description. Too much character description. Rambling scenes where the plot isn’t advanced in any way. Boring transitions between scenes instead of snappy summations. Dialogue patterned after real conversations. Can you think of other boring elements that we should try avoiding as writers? How do you revise for pace?

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