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February 2017

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Simplifying the story

I recently read three blog posts, very close in time, that addressed a similar topic. When the Universe jumps up and down waving its arms in my face that way, I figure I shouldn't ignore that signal.

Here's Jenny Gordon: "... I’ve recently printed up my old novels ... and this week, I’ve been reading those two dark fantasy novels ...
And man! Are they hard-going!!!!
It’s partly due to the fact that I was still learning my craft that they’re full of so much exposition, but it’s also because of all that world-building I did, and wanted to share.
It’s a rich, vibrant world to be sure, but did I really need to write so much of it into the stories?"

And now Tabitha Olsen: "... the very first time I sat down to write a story, I couldn’t wait to tell the reader everything. ... Literally, everything that happened in the story, as well as a fair bit of research, was included. You can imagine the big mess I ended up with. :)"

Finally, taking a slightly different road through what I view as the same neighborhood, Anna Staniszewski: "If you have to spend a lot of time explaining the rules and making sure your readers 'get them,' then you might be making things overly complex. And sometimes, that can be a big turn-off for readers."

In other words: don't let elaborate story-telling (whether setting, plot, backstory, characterization, style or tone) drag down the essential thing, which is the story itself.

p.s. If you have a taste for live book events, I'll be at the Hudson (NY) Book Festival this Saturday, May 5, from 10 to 4; and I'll be at Books of Wonder in NY City on May 19 from noon to 2 (even if you can't make the latter event in person, you can order signed books via the link).


Happy revising! ;-)
Isn't it funny how our writerly brains run along the same path from time to time? Interesting to know that others have been observing the same thing as me recently, and kind of heartening that I'm not alone in encountering the problem of world-building flab, though I suspected I wouldn't be - thanks for posting this.
I remember one of my earliest short stories, in which I even included the characters' locker combinations. The combinations had no significance to the story. I was just so much in love with storytelling and these characters that I assumed readers would find every detail of their lives as enchanting as I did!
Lol! I'm sure I've done similar (equivalent) things in my time.
Have fun :)