Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Dropping Scenes that Work
As I work on my book I’m always tempted to include scenes that I think would be good, or that I want to see in that story, but more often than not, when I actually take the time to read through the book from the beginning, I realize that the readers don’t really care about those things.
That’s happening to me now as I work on The Queen.
I feel this tension between the desire to include stuff that I think would be good, and stuff that is contextually necessary. I find it easy to forget that my goal is to tell a good story, not to impress readers.
If you are a writer, don’t let what you want to happen interfere with what needs to happen to make the story work.
As you write your story, as you build the narrative world at the beginning of the tale remember that every character, every struggle, every significant setting that you introduce is a promise to your reader of the importance of that person, place or conflict to the story.
Eventually readers will care more about you keeping your promises to them, by showing the relevance of all that storytelling. And keeping those promises by giving the reader what he wants is more vital to telling a good story than including witty snippets of dialogue or clever descriptions of characters or fun little scenes that strike a chord.
When I finally finish a novel of 500 pages, I will have at least that many pages written that I cannot use, not because the scenes and dialogue aren’t good, but because they aren’t vital.
And so, here it is, one of the hardest things for me to remember when I am writing: context determines content.
It isn’t so much about what you include, it’s how well it fits and how well it meets reader expectations about where the story needs to go.