Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Don't Give the Reader a Reason to Stop

“… the moment we [the readers] stop caring where the story will go next, the writer has failed, and we stop reading.” -- John Gardner in The Art of Fiction.
Sometimes this occurs in opening paragraphs consisting of a description of the setting or backstory, turning me off before the story really begins. I read a submission recently that didn't introduce any characters until the last third of the story. The beginning consisted of background information. [yawn]

I need to pay more attention to plot movement in my own stories. I tend to rely too much on scenes full of backstory to show the reader my characters, when the same information could be included within the present action.


Koala Bear Writer said...

Sigmund Brouwer preaches about this - including enough hooks and emotional grabs to keep the reader wondering what's next. (He's also very good at it in his books.)

Often, I think I as the writer want to include way more backstory than is necessary. Often, only a sentence or two, to give the reader just a bit of information, will suffice - but I want to write paragraphs. :)

Jim Harrington said...

I'm sure we're not alone in the tendency to overwrite backstory, Koala Bear.

Thanks for the Sigmund Brouwer reference. I collected two quotes from his website for later use here. :)