Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Leave Out The Obvious

“Generally, try not to explain the obvious (the ocean is vast), the trite (Bali looked like paradise), or the normal (the sand was beige). Instead, concentrate on unusual and fresh descriptions.” --Jessica Page Morrell in Between the Lines.
I read a book of short stories by Alice Munro a couple of months ago. I may have mentioned this before. One thing I noticed was how she gave her characters some “normal” traits and a zinger or two. For example: Loretta might be a slender, girl-next-door blond who possesses a vocabulary that can make a football team blush.

It’s these zingers that make our characters come alive. I forgot about this in the current story I’m working on, until a critique stated the main character was too good. The reader gets to see most of the good and none of the bad. I remember including a few negative things in the first draft. I must have removed them to stay within the word limit included with the prompt that supplied the idea for this story. In the next rewrite, I need to show the reader my character’s other side. The question is how far should I go?

Another comment in the same critique suggested there may be too many characters for the story. The word limit no longer applies, but I still may delete the younger brother and a minor character who doesn't add anything important. While there’s tension in the sibling's relationship, there’s more contrast to the MC’s relationships with his mother (who he looks forward to seeing) and his father (who’s disappointed in the son for moving away instead of taking over the family business). Right now, I don’t know what I’m going to do. As is my practice, I’ll let the story sit for a week or so before returning to it.

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