What Did You Learn?

June 19, 2011

General Writing: Story Development

Filed under: General Writing — Tags: , — ax20 @ 10:44 pm

Another reason why many of the submissions I have read through have been rejected is their lack of plot development. Oftentimes, what happens is the book jumps from point A to point H to point Z. They don’t show us how we got from one point to the next, jump over long spans of time, and at best, provide a summary of the many events we missed. If events have drastically changed from one chapter to the next, we need to know how and a summary of what we didn’t see is not the way to go about it.

If you don’t know how this major change occurred (say a character that is much loved becomes despised, a poor person becomes rich, a fighting couple has reconciled) than we have a bigger problem–you have not fully developed your idea. If however, you simply did not feel like you had the space to go into it all, then something you might consider is simplifying your story.

Oftentimes, what happened is that there is too much happening. You have so many events to touch on that you can’t adequately cover all of them. Instead you have to jump over long spans of time simply to get from one plot point to the next. Cut out some of the side stories and events less crucial to your story (such as cutting out side characters and their minor subplots) to make more room.

There is another possibility. Perhaps you are covering a span of time too long for the book you are writing. Consider how much of the story is truly important–you wanted to show us how a character grew up, but what of their childhood was really important? Can you just start when they are fifteen instead of five? You wanted to show how a character is trained, but is it important to see the first training session or just any training session? By condensing the time frame of your story, you won’t have to “fill in” the time gaps. A shorter time frame will also cut out the boring stuff that you need to gloss over since there isn’t time for it to happen in your character’s life.

Make sure your story progresses naturally. If you skip out on important events, then the changes in your characters and the pace with which it all takes will feel unnatural and forced.

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