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.

2 comments:

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. :)