Thursday, 2 September 2010

Anchors Ahoy!

When Adultery for Beginners was going through the editing process, I can remember my editor asking me to clarify exactly where and when the story was at the beginning of a section.  It was important, she said, that readers knew that information in the first paragraph or else they would subconsciously fret. It doesn't have to be as clunky as 'Next morning, back at the ranch...' but the information needed to be there.  

I was thinking about this having read one bit of student work which started with a long description of a place, but with no sense of where in time we were.  Was the narrator describing the place as it was last week, last month, last year?  Sentences began with indeterminate words like 'Sometimes the bar is full...' or 'Many times I've wondered...' The effect is to make the story happen in some floaty space.  It needs anchoring:  when is this happening?

It's quite easy to anchor your scenes.  Just add a few words like: 'Last Tuesday I was sitting at the bar when...'  or 'Tonight was different.  Tonight there was no one at the bar...'  Anchor your scenes, and then the reader can concentrate on the story.


badas2010 said...

Useful tip this, thanks for posting it.

Sarah Duncan said...

You're welcome!