Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The in-between bits

I am still struggling at the moment with my own fictional writing. I have started several manuscripts—some are now up to twenty thousand words—but I keep getting stuck. It is ideas where I am struggling—knowing just what to write. When I have the idea I think I write it fairly well.

There is, however, one place where I struggle with how to write, as well as what to write, although they overlap to some extent. I struggle with how to write the in-between bits.

I often have some great scenes in my mind. Perhaps there will be a murder or a rape or an accident; perhaps there will be a significant meeting or parting. Several of these will constitute the key points of the narrative, from which everything else hangs. The question is, how to get from the meeting in chapter one, to the parting in chapter four. Something has to happen in between, the less exciting, more mundane moments. Some writers (as well as those who teach writing—and many publishers, apparently) seem to think it is necessary to move from one big event to the next, that there can be no let up in the action. And each big event—each explosion—has to be bigger than the last. This—some believe—is what is necessary to hold the reader’s interest.

I don’t share that view. I like quieter moments between the highlights. But writing them so that they are interesting is extremely difficult, which is perhaps why many writers just don’t try. On the other hand, some writers don’t know how to apply filters. They report every conversation, and describe every meal and bowel movement. Knowing which in-between bits to write, and how to write them so that the reader doesn’t doze off, is a real challenge. It’s here that I often come unstuck. I have a great scene, A, and a gobsmackingly brilliant scene, F, but between A and F have to be the slightly more mundane and less exciting scenes b, c, d and e. They are much more difficult to write.

These are the moments when, hopefully, the reader will gain some insights into the characters—their histories, personalities and motivation. Perhaps there is the opportunity to illustrate some social history of the day. Perhaps there is time to draw a brief but interesting portrait of a minor character. The really, really good writers know how to make the mundane interesting.

I pretty sure I’m not there yet.

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