Alright, you know which parts I'm talking about, right? Sure, people say "if your writing something you think is boring then your readers will think so too!" And I wholeheartedly disagree. Because sometimes "boring stuff" is necessary to write (like everything that happens in the middle of the book, small moments that build up to the climax).
Right now, in my story, I'm struggling with this. I enjoy the exciting scenes like an explosion, a confrontation, a betrayal, the introduction to a new character, a discovery or new clue...but when is the boring stuff necessary and when should it be edited out?
A character of mine gets physically ill following a traumatic incident. It happens in the middle of a scene and the beginning of an important discovery. However, do I stop everything and clean up the vomit or just gloss over it? In real life we would stop everything to clean up, then maybe continue talking and unravelling the mystery.
These moments are what stops my writing. Sometimes for DAYS. I can't have constant action and each scene moves the plot forward but not all of them are going to be groundbreaking moments.
So when do you know what "boring parts" to cut and what to include?
Post by ScienceGirl on Mar 29, 2021 22:08:03 GMT -6
This is why I love chapter breaks. I use them all the time now because it lets me skip time without going into those kinds of details. You can hop POV, move to a new setting, bring in a new character without their entrance, add in a cute little graphic that fits in with your story theme... Readers are used to time jumps on TV and movies.
Post by doublejay9 on Mar 30, 2021 12:46:09 GMT -6
ScienceGirl is right. Chapter breaks are awesome for glossing over the boring bits, generally speaking. However, the example you presented is so significant that it can't be ignored with a chapter break. You do need to "clean up the vomit" as you put it. The trick is to clean up while continuing discussion and unraveling the mystery. If you can infuse the dialogue with character and polish it so it flows effortlessly, this slower-paced scene doesn't need be boring. Rather it can be a much appreciated decompression and palate cleanser -- the milk you need to chase down something super spicy.
Here's how I'd build the follow-up scene(s). Start with the character's illness. How bad is it? What are the symptoms? What would experiencing them feel like? You don't need to dwell on this. A couple of paragraphs will suffice for establishing this character's baseline.
If the character passes out and takes a while to regain full consciousness, I'd seize the opportunity to write a fever dream sequence. Show the character processing the traumatic incident. How does their memory of the event differ from what actually happened? How do they believe the previous scene ended? How is their feverish brain trying to fill in the gaps? Additionally, if the time's right to drop such hints, how could you weave in some foreshadowing into the dream? This sequence is completely optional. If it would bog down the story too much, feel free to omit it.
From there, I'd skip forward a short ways to show the character recovering -- in the hospital, at home, at the team's HQ. Where doesn't matter as much as when. The patient should be awake and alert enough to hold a conversation. Open the dialogue like any such scene logically would:
A: How are you feeling? B: Not so great. Doc says blah blah blah. C: We're just glad you're alive. D: You had us worried for a while there.
I'd likely next move into filling characters in on what really happened...
B: So a dragon didn't crash through the roof and set the place on fire? A: Nope. No dragon. C: (chuckles) You have the weirdest dreams. D: How high a fever were you running?
...and a bit of group trauma processing.
C: I can't believe it! The nerve! How could Big Bad Evil Guy do this to you? And we weren't even doing anything illegal! What a heartless creep! B: Could -- could we just drop this? I mean, what's done is done, right? We just gotta move on and all, right? D: B... A: Hey. If you don't wanna talk, it's fine. I get it. But lemme say this. (cracks knuckles) I will make Big Bad Evil Guy pay for what he did. I swear it.
How tightly you mix these two together will depend on your characters. How much of each you do will depend on the previous scenes. If the reader saw how the traumatic incident really ended, you can condense the recap. If you added the fever dream sequence, you can gloss over the group therapy portion.
The bulk of the conversation should be your characters talking about the discovery they just made and what it means for the larger plot.
C: So we discovered X. A: Yeah. The hell was that about? D: I've been doing some thinking about X. B: I've been thinking too. Got any theories, D? D: Maybe? Okay. Hear me out.
If you're setting up any dramatic irony, now would be a golden opportunity to weave in a clue or tow. For instance, D knows a compromising secret about Big Bad Evil Guy. Their girlfriend is related to him. The reader knows this, but D doesn't say anything to their friends. Why won't D open up about their past?
The scene ought to end with the group deciding what to do next. It could be a simple as stocking up and doing some reconnaissance while B recovers. Or maybe A,C, and D can move forward on a plan that B can join in later once they're back to full strength.
D: B, your first job is getting better. We don't want to lose you. A: Yeah. You've done enough. Rest up and leave the rest to us, okay? B: (sighs) Yeah, yeah. D: That said, the more eyes we have watching the news, the better. B: I can do that. I'll let you know if I see anything. D: C, A, let's meet at the usual place tonight to hammer out the details. A: Got it. C: Don't worry, B. We'll visit you again. A: And let us know the second the doc clears ya. I don't want you missing out on the fun stuff. B: Sure thing. Thanks, guys. D: Don't mention it, B. C: Get well soon, B. See ya later.
That's my two cents. I had fun speculating about your scenario. Of course, most of this was spitballing into the dark. I hope you're able to glean some inspiring nuggets from this lengthy response.
Good tactics. The one that came to mind was a scene break. If a chapter break isn't possible for some reason (if the sick happens at the beginning of a chapter or whatever), a scene break can accomplish the same thing, but without the drastic shift that a whole new chapter implies.
Just an example. Character gets sick and passes out, scene break, they wake to find their companion has dealt with the mess and covered them with a blanket and is waiting on hand with a glass of water to continue the important conversation. I think I remember the scene you're alluding to, so depending on how you structure it, there's probably several ways to cut the tedium -- or make the tedium part of the realism in a surreal situation. And such tedium can be summed up in a single sentence, and like Jay mentioned, be a moment for the reader to catch their breath between the sick and the important thing that follows.
I think tho, during the act of writing, we don't really consider that readers need brief breaks. We want every moment to be pumped with page-turning intrigue or excitement, but there needs to be wax and wane in that too, else the author's task in topping herself is impossible and exhausting. Yes, a reader might skim the connecting tissue, but during that couple of seconds their brains are processing what they just read, resting, and gearing up for what comes next.
So yeah, I don't think "boring" parts are a bad thing, as long as they're brief. These are TRANSITIONS. And transitions are hideous to write. Blech, I hate writing them so much. Always the doubt involved (is this boring? can I skip this? should I summarize this?), and the author, honestly, simply not giving a crap about that connecting tissue. Very real challenges to deal with.
Post by HDSimplicityy on Apr 1, 2021 20:48:37 GMT -6
The first and probably most common solution is using a scene like that as downtime for emotional reveal. For example, in The Hunger Games, Katniss aids Peeta in that cave after he got wounded. I forget if it was a knife wound from a Tribute in the leg or not. But the story - at least in the movie - slows down for that cheesy romantic subplot that kind of worked. There can be a slow scene for character development, a quiet pause to notice surroundings, inner thinking, like Sciencegirl said a character introduction. Something more than three lines worth.
Raveneye's suggestion of the scene break is useful. Doublejay, nice breakdown. Any of those works, Alatariel.
I try to use time skips/scene breaks sparingly because I don't want the narrative to feel disjointed or choppy. I think a lot of the time I just don't want to write the connective tissue that Raveneye mentions. I just want to skip it and get to the meat of the story, but I can't do that all the time.
In my specific example, I think losing consciousness could work. Even for a brief moment. Her body is adjusting to this new world and newly discovered "abilities". However, the scene has JUST skipped because she falls asleep after all the excitement, then is woken up in a rude manner and she's disoriented. That's when she gets sick. So I'm trying to decide if I should have her black out (could be appropriate since at this point her body is working through A LOT and choppiness could help with that overall tone) or if I should tough it out and write "connective tissue" of them cleaning up the yarf.
Hm. I'm gonna write both and see which I like best. THANKS Y'ALL!