The picture doesn’t have anything to do with today’s post. Maybe it does, I’m not sure yet. I *do* know that it is awesome. And hilarious. And oh-so-true when put into context of the film’s music.
Anyway. One of these days I will come up with an update schedule for this thing. One of these days. Promise. *ahem* So, as I sit pondering the events of the next chapter I’m working on, I find myself in a quandary. Probably one that I shouldn’t be in, but am nonetheless. So, I am reaching out to you, my reading/writing friends. Because this post does pertain to you and I do have a question to ask.
How much is too much?
Okay, let me back up. I’m only a quarter into my first draft, still working out the kinks and ignoring the atrocious writing as I go along. There is no reason I should be even considering my stated question. Realistically, I shouldn’t worry about it until I’m at least on my second round of edits when the touched up version has gone out to beta readers and come back.
But. I am. So, I come to the blog because that’s what I do now with questions like these.
Throughout this wonderful journey known as ‘writing a novel’ I have found out many things about many other things. Namely; how much writing a novel is a pain in the arse on a good day.
No, I kid.
Going along and writing, I’ve been doing some reading when I can squeeze it in. I’ve read Chuck Wendig’s how-to books, Stephen King’s ON WRITING, and have religiously followed the good folks over at Indies Unlimited, hoping to get a handle on this thing while my novel is still in its infancy so, you know, I don’t irrefutably screw it up. I’ve also been doing some thinking.
There are certain elements that make up a good story. Luckily it’s all pretty much unanimous across the board, give or take a few terms:
These things, if done well, make a story great. Provided, of course, they’re done right. Which, really, boils down to description. Everything in a story, no matter the length, is description. There’s a reason they call it “show don’t tell” which leads me (again) to my question.
How much is too much?
How much description does one need to show that characters are growing? How detailed does an author need to go into to make their world (any world, I don’t care if the story takes place in today’s time, an author has to describe to New York even to New Yorkers) believable and ‘real’? How much does a reader need to know about the characters to connect with them? Is there a writing ‘sweet spot’ where (after much editing, I’m sure) it all falls into place?
Obviously there is a stopping point, a point where the description becomes too much. A point where the plot drags, the characters grow stale and flat, a point where the reader doesn’t care.
But when? Every book has a hook. Every book has a reason for a reader to keep turning the pages. When do you (as the reader) stop?
I stopped at Gone with the Wind because I couldn’t stand Scarlet O’Hara. I even yelled at the book and skipped to the end to figure out of Ashley *ever* bloody married her, or at least freaking slept with her the way she went on and on (and on and on) about him. He didn’t. Rhett Butler left her because he was as fed up with her as I was. Slammed the book shut, put it back on the library shelf and haven’t picked it up since seventh grade despite numerous wonderings if I should ever, really, finish that book.
Has a book ever bored you? Have you ever had an instance where you’ve stopped reading?
Great authors (famous or not) are remembered for characters that jump out of the page and suck the reader in. The books I remember are the ones that hook me for a reason that I can’t explain and keep me turning the pages because I have to know what happens. Maybe I’m selfish in that I want to achieve that greatness. Not for myself, but for potential readers (maybe a little for myself. At least I’m honest, right?) The world is real in my head, translating it is proving to be a lot harder than I anticipated.
So reader friends, when does much become too much?
Author friends, do you have a stopping point? How do you spin your craft?