Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Is That Really Necessary?

“If there is a gun hanging on the wall in the first act, it must fire in the last.” -- Anton Chekhov in Anton Chekhov on Writing
In my early stories, an idea would pop into my head about how a character looked or acted, and I’d add it as an action or description. I didn’t give much thought to how it fit into the story, or if the reader even needed to know this bit of information.

For example, why does my main character limp? Is it because of a birth defect? Did someone shoot him? Did he fall and break his leg? Will his leg ever get better? If the limp has nothing to do with the character's problem, nor is involved in the solution, perhaps it's best to forget about it. Including the limp in the story may only serve to leave the readers with a number of unanswered questions that pull them away from the story itself.

As I continue writing and reading, I appreciate more the advise that every word, every description, every action, every scene must be an integral part of the story. It's not playing fair with the reader to indicate something is important to the plot by including it in the tale and then leaving it to the reader to figure out why.

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