One of the most difficult parts of writing isn’t the big, exciting, flashy parts of your story, but the quiet moments in-between them. Let’s call them “mundane moments” to be honest but not overly cruel.
This article by the great Chuck Palahniuk over on LitHub emphasizes the importance of not boring your readers.
Of course you can move along in one unbroken moment-to-moment description, but that’s so slow. Maybe too slow for the modern audience. And while people will argue that today’s audience has been dumbed down by music videos and whatnot, I’d argue that today’s audience is the most sophisticated that’s ever existed. We’ve been exposed to more stories and more forms of storytelling than any people in history.
Chuck identifies that authors shouldn’t be afraid of using different tools and methods of filling that “in-between” space with things other than rote lists of boring activities. I’m very guilty of this in 1st drafts. Characters milling around, picking things up and putting them down. Looking at one another. BORING!
Some of the things he identifies as alternatives are
- Interesting “coded” dialogue that helps flesh out character groups
- Short chapters that describe/show locations as characters travel
I am certainly a writer from the school of “making it like a film”. When I wrote DETROIT 2020 one of the primary goals of the book was to make it a book for readers who would rather be watching an action movie. Even my internal author “camera” sees scenes played out like little movies in my brain as I’m writing.
Pacing scenes like films in your head can really resonate with audiences who are savvy and used to processing information quickly. It’s also another reason that the old adage of “Show versus Tell” is so important. You want to build the image in your reader’s minds so their processing of that vision is efficient and seamless. Being “told” takes more energy on their part and risks a disconnect.
There are also a number of things that can make your prose cleaner and more efficient when you are self-editing your initial story drafts.
The main takeaway here is if you or your beta readers find some yawning moments where your story lags, then your readership certainly will too. Bored readers are no readers at all.
Hopefully these posts will spark some unique ideas to fill those mundane moments in your stories. If you have additional suggestions on how you work with those spaces share it with your fellow writers down in the comments!