Monday, 26 April 2010

Making Good Choices

I don't know about you, but in my real life there's an awful lot of hanging around and doing small repetitive actions such as teeth brushing, showering, getting dressed, eating breakfast and so on. If we included every single one of them in every single novel, then each book would spread to 1000s of pages - if they were ever read. So a writer's first job is to make certain selections of the kind of actions they're going to include, and most of us do this automatically - I don't think it's ever occurred to me to write about a character going to the loo for example, and I can only remember one bit of student work where it featured.

So, we choose not to include basic bodily functions. If you accept this premise, from here it's not a hard step to accept that as writers we are continually making choices, and there is no absolute requirement to include any information at all. Most importantly this means that you leave out any boring bits. There is no reason for including them. If they bore you, they'll bore the reader.

If your character needs to pass the next two weeks but not much happens, then simply write, 'the next two weeks went by without anything happening.' If your character had a puppy when she was 8, it may have mattered to her, but is it relevant for the reader now? If not, then you don't need that bit of backstory. If you've written that the character went by car, would it be a more interesting choice if the car broke down and he had to go on foot, or call a taxi? If he goes by foot he might see something interesting, by taxi and the driver could have a conversation with him.

Choices, choices, choices. You are making choices all the time. Learn to make good ones and relax about ditching bad ones.

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