Friday, March 29, 2013

What To Leave Out

A good story lets you imagine
the rest of the world, too.
I've started and completed dozens of posts here that you'll never see. For numerous reasons they just won't make it out of draft stage or are permanently deleted.

It's not censorship. Or not just self-censorship. Sometimes it's the fact that I can't coherently say what I want to say. Or that it's coherent but not eloquent enough. Or that it's not really something I want to say here.

You know, the discussions you have with friends over a meal or drinks or in the car that are interesting in the moment but that you think about afterwards. Political stuff, personal worldview stuff, the things that you think but don't necessarily need to say. That's what I'm talking about today.

Those things can really enhance a story or a novel, though. That's character development stuff. That goes along with anecdotes, presenting a character's worldview in such situations.

When I'm writing I like to leave out a bunch of details. At least in the first few drafts of a story. My history with writing has been that I tend to bog down when I think about what a room looks like, what's on the walls, the color of the carpet, how there's a little ding on the top left drawer of the ancient oak desk that had been restained some years before. See what I mean?

Yeah. That stuff definitely should be in stories but not to the degrees that I used to include them. What I'm working on, really really working on, is coming back from the other extreme - almost no detail. It's always been about the story and when I dump details in the first couple of drafts that's all I'm focusing on, the story's flow. Later, as I edit for clarity, the details emerge. So far I've not run into a situation where adding details to a scene have changed something else later on, but it's entirely possible. Depending on whether I'm editing backwards or not.

Have you ever done that? Started with the last scene and added things there that you'd have to foreshadow in the beginning? It's really pretty easy. Then you read the story from beginning to end and make sure the foreshadowing works.

Look, it's easy to get lost in the details. I tend to overthink stuff all the time in my regular life. If this then that but what about those? Pretty soon I'm not only off the beaten path, I'm somewhere in the wilderness wondering why the polar bear is staring me down. I think this is a natural way for creative types to be, but reigning it in and only giving the audience what they need to enjoy the story is what the Big Names do.

And that's what I'm learning how to do.

So it starts with the blog, writing those posts I need to get out of my system and then shoving them around and out of the way so I can concentrate on what you readers want from this. At least what you guys are reading and responding to.