Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Writing in Interruptions

by Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraig

6745404691_32d04ca3f2I was working away on the fourth Memphis book yesterday, writing an important scene for the book.

It’s a scene where a suspect gives important information to my sleuth—information that leads her investigation in a new direction.

The scene was pacing well. I was happy with the scene's characters, dialogue, and location.

There were two things I noticed, though. One, the scene was absolutely massive. Although it was pacing well, it seemed really dense. Lots of information there for a reader to digest.

The second thing I noticed was that the scene was really too important to have all at once place in the story.

I don’t like to edit as I go, so I put a note to myself in the margin of the story with Word’s Track Changes feature: Split this scene up.

What I’m going to do when I’m editing, is to take that scene and interrupt it. I’ll have the character either hint at the information or try to relate the information—and get interrupted by another event….something that needs immediate attention in the story.

Of course, in my stories, that character might end up dead before he has a chance to say what was on his mind. But that also gives an opportunity to delay the character's revelation—maybe he told another character his problem or conclusion or insight. Maybe he wrote it down. Maybe he emailed someone. Who did he communicate with in the days leading up to his death?

If this interrupting is done too frequently or in an obvious way, I think it can get frustrating for a reader. But if it’s handled by just introducing another important scene or event, it automatically creates tension and interest: what was that character trying to say? And life, after all, is frequently one interruption after another (at least, mine is. That’s part of being a parent, I guess.)

This approach is one that I’ve been using more of….especially when I see a huge scene that’s composed of dialogue between a couple of characters. It’s almost like a big info-dump. It’s not backstory, but it’s a lot of information to process. Why not break it up? Fracturing the scene creates tension, adds reasonable length to my story, and makes the pace faster.

Do you ever break up important scenes in your book to trickle the information out slowly?

Photo: Leo Reynolds—Flickr