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Monday, October 17, 2011

Stuck in the Middle

Greetings Friends!
So glad to be here! Thanks for joining me in my first post at Unicorn Bell. As a fellow writer, but more importantly as a reader and book purchaser, I love a good book! Don’t you? So let’s see how we can make ours better!

The best place to start is at the beginning. We excite the reader with a great hook, maybe an incident or intriguing characters, a problem arises, tension, relationship possibilities… go go go!

Then we have to stop and wait for the elevator. We have reached the tough middle. Hold on while I tell you some background and explain things and here’s an info dump, zzz to the easy listening muzak. We have lost momentum. (think Blues Brothers)

When I’m reading, if the beginning was awesome I might plow through the dull parts to see how it ends. But if I can predict it, I don’t bother since it seems I’ve already read the good parts. Could an agent think this too? Oh no! We don’t want that!

So how do we keep the reader turning pages, anxious to see what’s next?
  1. Is it imperative to the story? I love my back story. I know why my characters act the way they do, where they are from, their past training and experiences, but does the reader need this info? Most likely not. If the info has nothing to do with what is happening, cut it.
  2. Yes, it is. Fine. Keep it. And here is some advice I'm passing on as to how:
    • Spread it around – dole it out in smaller portions, no big long narrations
    • Avoid Bob – heard of “as you know, Bob?” this is where a character explains something to another character that they both already know, but the writer wants to tell the reader…don’t do it. This is telling - show it!
    • Make it smooth – we may want to tell the reader back story right away, but wait for the opportune moment. Don’t force it. The trick is to sprinkle it into the action so the reader has no idea they are being educated.
  3. Keep the engine revved. Most importantly, have enough action between slow spots by adding incidents or surprises. We want to keep the reader on her toes! Vroom, vroom!
Now it's your turn! Got more advice? Share it! And we would love to see some submissions! Do you have a section you think needs a boost? Not sure if your back story is necessary? Send me your stuff! You don’t have to be done with your MS. Just send a 200-300 word sample to me: taratylertalks * at * gmail * dot * com and we’ll see what we can do! (I will post my example, too. I’m a rambler)

Here is some more advice for keeping a reader hooked from Charity. And this just in, Abby wrote a post about putting problems into our story, on purpose!

Write on!


Huntress said...

The reference to Bob, the info dump backstop, reminds me of a story about Jim Butcher author of The Dresden Files and The Furies of Calderon. He is in the top tier of my favorite writers.

He intentionally named an all-knowing, super intelligent character ‘Bob’, with a laugh and wink to the industry. Bob, a talking skull with computer-like memory, holds all the magic spells and became the clever source of backstory.

Ghost Story, number thirteen in the Dresden series, made the NYT bestseller list.

Tara Tyler said...

it amazes me what well known authors are "allowed" to do that us newbies shouldnt =)

Charity Bradford said...

Great post Tara. I have some new stuff from my rewrite I can send. Going to look for it now. :)

Abby said...

This is awesome Tara! I have been contemplating this kind of stuff the past couple days as I work in my WIP. It's hard with those info dumps cause you don't want to slow down. You have great advice here. Good job on your first post! YAY! (Oh - and thanks for the shout-out!) :D