Much, much too much?

courtesy of Cracked.com

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?

Me thinkest thou dost get ahead of thyself…

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.

Maybe.

*ahem*

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.

“Run! Run for your lives!”

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:

*Character growth

*Pacing

*Foreshadowing

*Authenticity/Authority

*Continuity

*Resolution

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?

Toodles!

 

 

 

 

 

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11 thoughts on “Much, much too much?

  1. Chris James says:

    Hey RJ,
    Nice post, thanks, had me smiling 🙂
    For what it’s worth, I can only pass on some advice I read somewhere regarding always keeping your story moving forward: remember that when you stop to describe something – you’ve stopped the story moving forward. What you have is a kind of trade-off with the reader. You need to get the reader invested enough in the action before you can pause for some exposition. This is a difficult trick to pull off, so I suggest that you take a close look at some of your favourite novels and see how those writers did it.
    Good luck!

  2. Bev Robitai says:

    Readers will forgive a lot of exposition and showing as long as they are being pulled along by a strong enough desire to know what happens next. Don’t sweat the brush strokes as long as the picture is well-composed. Put in as much detail as you feel comfortable with at the time of writing, then much later when you’re reading the whole book from start to finish, cut out the parts you find yourself skimming over as ‘unneccessary’.

  3. Amber Dane says:

    Let your characters reveal their story and go with it until you write the end, so to speak. Some will and some won’t like much descrip…Myself included. Brevity, my fav word. When I tried to add more, my beta readers nearly cut off a few of my fingers. Not to say when the book hits the market, others might disagree. Oh well, I wrote what my characters wanted, the story flows. I think if you master your flow, whether it holds much or little, your wonderful novel will capture and hold fans to you. Happy writing!

    1. rjkeith says:

      Thank you! The story flows for me in starts and spurts, but it flows (thank goodness). I just wonder “what if” sometimes and then, like that statement is wont to do, things spiral from there.
      Thanks for the vote of confidence!

  4. Bubbe says:

    One book stands out in my head as one I had to stop reading. Mr. Murder by Dean Koontz. I know, right? Who puts down Koontz? I did. 😦 In my defense I was on Koontz overload when I started it, and then I got to the part where the psycho killed the family pet. (Shakes head) I could no more finish that book than fly. I’m not sure why. A lot of his books describe horrific scenes but that one was it for me. I’ve read a few of his since then but I don’t think I can ever pick that one up again.

    I’m a writer wannabe and I think the other advice here is excellent!

      1. Bubbe says:

        I LOVED Odd Thomas! Well, the character Odd Thomas anyway. Which one did you have to put down? I haven’t read his Frankenstein.

      2. rjkeith says:

        I think it was the third book? Maybe the fourth. I don’t really remember, it’s been a while since I picked up the series. Don’t even bother with his Frankenstein books. The firs will get your hopes up, the second and third will crush them like tiny ants.

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