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Thursday, June 20, 2013

Critical Passages

On to a new chapter in "The Janus Rule," i.e., Chapter 10. Another critical scene is underway, but even as I prepared to write this post, the thought hit me: Aren't they all?

I've seen advice to writers in a number of places that anything that does not move the story forward should be left out. Well, within reason, of course. I've read many a book where that advice was ignored. I find it annoying to read a number of pages about something the characters are doing only to find out that it really did not mean anything. It did not supply any new information, either about the plot or about the characters. On the other hand, writers are often told they need to flesh out the characters and add layers of imagery to put the reader in the scene, make the reader imagine what's happening. Conflicting advice? Not really, but hard to explain and execute. Granted, The Muse is hard to defy sometimes. The scene happens in my head and begs to be written down, even though the story will be fine without it. If that's the case, it gets cut during editing. Sometimes, a quick passage can pass the test just as comic relief. The key here is "quick." Okay, I guess this calls for an example.

In "The Dreamer Gambit," one of my main characters, Tabitha, is abducted by bad guys who want to know what she knows. She is then drugged and dumped on the street in a questionable part of town. She needs to be rescued. Two ladies of the evening find her and go through her purse while she lays there in a stupor. One of them has the kindness and presence of mind to call her emergency number which reaches Jack who was off meeting an anonymous contact with vital information. I got to play with a little humor in writing dialog for the two women as well as in their conversation with Jack, but it moved the story forward by solving the problem of how he could possibly find Tabitha in a big city.

In another passage, Jack and Tabitha take a trip out to the suburbs for some R-and-R. They go to a restaurant, they shop, she buys a music box. Over dinner, they discuss some aspects of her case, and Jack reveals some things about his past which help define his character. Basically, I got back to business in the space of a couple of short paragraphs. I believe this passes the test of what to leave in. BUT...and a big one...had I gone on in detail about the town they visited, the people they saw, the antique store and its owner who liked to entertain customers with magic tricks, maybe even inventing some dialog for him, that would have been too much. Creative, pleasant, memorable, full of imagery, but not essential to the plot. By the way, the music box does make an appearance later that opens a touch of conflict which leads to a turning point in Tabitha and Jack's relationship.

It's all about pacing, after all. Too much description or development of inconsequential stuff bogs everything down. For readers like me, it leads to a question at the end of the book, "But what about that business where they...?" If it did not add anything, I wind up feeling duped.

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