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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Does Your Story Bore Your Reader?

"If your scene makes you [the writer] cry, your reader will sob. If your scene makes you laugh, your reader will howl. If your scene bores you, your reader will stop reading." - Jerry B. Jenkins (stated during 8/10/10 Thick-skinned Critique Webinar)

Your story should be a series of active scenes. Readers read to disappear from mundane, every-day life. Give them drama and action and a reason to keep turning the page. Scour every paragraph for boring details that mimic routine life and kill them.

Don't tell readers your character parked the car, walked across the street, and climbed the steep stairs to the courthouse - just get to the action in the courthouse. Jenkins calls this "on-the-nose" writing, or stating the obvious (mirroring real life without adding to the story). These humdrum, life-mimicking details would be understood by the reader - the reader would know the character had to get to the courthouse somehow, but the how wouldn't be important and stating it would only serve to bore your reader.

Of course, if your character hit a pedestrian parking his car, or got into a fist fight with a cab driver while crossing the street, or fell on the steps and sprained his ankle and was helped up by a beautiful woman who later turns out to be the judge in his trial - those things would certainly further your story, so let them live.

Jenkins says whatever emotion your scene evokes in you, it will evoke that emotion in your reader times ten. If a scene you have written bores you, it will bore your reader times ten. At best, they will skip passages to try to get to the meat of the story. At worst, they will put your book down and never pick it up again.

Post by: LWC Director, Karen Aldridge. Visit her personal blog at My Writing Loft.

1 comment:

Stephanie Faris said...

I remember, while reading Twilight, there was an ENTIRE passage about the main character making dinner, sitting down to eat it, going to the mall, blah blah blah. I think she saw her sparkly vampire guy at the mall, so that was what we were getting to, but why am I reading about all the details in between?

But then, I once had a contest judge tell me I had too many short scenes and I needed to keep it to one change of POV per chapter, so that stuck in my head. Never mind that TONS of other authors have scene changes (you know, the spots in our chapters that we separate with a space or ***) at least three or four times a chapter, especially in Young Adult books. Maybe that was a sign I should be writing for younger readers...but I've seen romance novelists do it too. In fact, the book I'm reading now is a romance novel and she has one scene shift in chapter one, just 3 pages in, and TWO scene changes in chapter three.