How do you write the boring bits between the interesting bits?
In other words, how do you breathe the magic on to the page to keep your readers awake, even when you aren’t writing the really exciting action bits?
Personally, I find that writing the exciting parts of the story – the adventures, or the emotionally charged character confrontations – is the easy task. What is tough is to get the hero in the door to start with, or to get the army to the battlefield, or to get the heroine up and dressed in the morning, or get the travellers from place A to place B.
Take the travelling. In a mainstream novel set in Megacity, no problem. You can say “She caught the train.” It’s somewhat harder in a fantasy. She walked. Um, she walked six days. (Reader is immediately thinking: what did she eat, was it safe to walk, where did she sleep, etc, etc, and they expect answers.)
But what if the answers are unimportant and have no bearing on your overall story arc? How do you get her from point A to B? How do you get the hero in the door?
1. Sometimes the answer might be simple. You use a trick:
e.g. the end of a chapter
Your hero goes to bed in his room at the inn at the end of chapter 10. At the beginning of Chapter 11 you have him knocking on the door of the villain’s house for the great confrontation scene. Voilà, you have avoided all that tiresome business of getting up, getting dressed, having breakfast etc, all of which is irrelevant to the story arc.
e.g. the division of your book into parts.
At the end of Part One, you have your king declaring to his councillors that they are going to march to war on neighbouring kingdom. Part Two opens with the king’s army besieging the walled city of the neighbouring king. None of that tiresome business of how you raise an army, supply it, arm it, march across the border…
e.g. the section break (seen in the book as a blank line or sometimes an asterisk or equivalent.)
Seen in the typed text as –TEXT BREAK HERE–
You write a scene where Mary is trying to decide which of her numerous dresses she is going to put on for the ball. You insert a text break, and then continue on to show Mary as she sweeps into the ballroom clad in her older married sister’s bright red gown, to the horror of the conservative dames. And you, the writer, have avoided the details of how she pinched her sister’s dress out of her closet.
Mostly, though, the problem of tiresome, irrelevant but important details is more difficult to solve.
2. Use a sentence or two rather than a paragraph of explanation. Gloss over the unnecessary details by the way you structure your sentence(s).
Problem: Your travellers, led by Jokum, have just arrived in a town. They are very hungry and very dusty. The reason they are there is to hunt out the local mage for help, only to discover that he has been arrested for treason. It is unlikely they would visit the mage ravenous and dirty, but you don’t want to dwell on how they eat and wash up – it is unimportant. You want to get to the exciting bit. However, if you don’t say something, your readers won’t find your story believable. So keep it succinct – explain but don’t bury your reader in detail.
After a meal and a wash at the first inn inside the city walls, they asked the way to the street of Mages. Ten minutes later, Jokum was knocking at Hokus’s door.
After stopping at the town pump for directions and to wash away the worst of their travel dust, they bought a loaf of fresh bread. By the time they reached the house of Mage Hokus, there wasn’t even a crumb remaining.
You may be able to think of even better ways to reduce the information down to a snappy minimum.
I am recycling some old posts
3. Spice up the boring in-between-bits with interesting world-building or character info.
(Remember, if it tells you something important about the world or the character, or if it pushes the story forward, then your info becomes important and interesting.)
For example – the army preparations might be boring – or they might not, if they include arguments between the king and his advisers or sons or brothers, or if they include the oddities of your world. For example, how do you feed your fighting dragons? How do you get your mages to the battlefield if they can’t cross water without losing power? Can you use magic or dragons or something else fascinating to supply your army with food?
4. Use dialogue to give the info.
It’s a lot easier to make something interesting if it is delivered in speech.
Here’s some info in text form:
By the time they reached Emitiville, the horses were thin and losing condition, so Tom bought some oats.
Spiced up with dialogue:
“Tom, did get any oats for the horses? If they lose any more condition, I reckon I’ll have to put another hole in my saddle girth.”
“Yeah, don’t worry. I bought some cheap, from the ostler’s wife. Only a shilling and a kiss. Well, a bit more than a kiss.” He grinned.
“What? You seduced the ostler’s wife?”
5. Condense specific info into a general paragraph
Here’s a section of text from “The Last Stormlord.” It covers six days of walking by the protagonist down a tunnel that supplies water to a city from the hills. He has just entered the tunnel and lit a lamp.
Now he could see what he was doing, he used the walkway built along the side. When he was tired or hungry, he stopped. He slept fitfully at intervals, stretched out on the walkway in the smothering dark with the lamp extinguished. When he awoke it was always into panic at the utter blackness, and the panic remained until his fumbling with flint, striker and tinder produced enough of a flame to light the lamp or a candle.
The next paragraph deals with him arriving at his destination. So those four sentences are all there is to cover six days – and (I hope) conjure up a bit of how it felt. The above paragraph gives all the necessary information (except perhaps the problem of waste disposal!!) without being boring. The waste disposal? Yes, I do deal with that too – it is one of the first questions the indignant water reeves ask him when they catch him at the city end of the tunnel. (Want to know more? Buy the book!)
6. Getting the hero out of the room by diverting the attention of the reader to something else.
You have to get our teenage protagonist from, let’s say, the kitchen (where he’s just had an unsettling conversation with this mother about his elder brother), to the letter depository a mile away, because he wants to send an important message (that the reader already knows about) on the next coach out of town.
One way to do it is to ignore the uninteresting method and deal with the interesting thoughts he has. Let’s call him Jaydon.
He slammed out of the kitchen in a temper and, on his way across town to the letter depository, dwelt lovingly on numerous impractical plans to wreak revenge on that sneaky, mean-spirited liar of a brother of his. That bastard! How could George have behaved like that and upset his mother so – so callously?
By the time Jaydon arrived at the depository, the scowl on his face made the man behind the counter take a step backwards.
I’ll guarantee your reader won’t notice that you didn’t bother to tell them HOW he got across town. Did he walk? Take a coach? Ride?
Who cares? It wasn’t important. What he was thinking, though, was. And it was much more interesting.
Remember: Don’t worry too much in your first draft about what is boring and what is not. Get your story down first. Then start attacking the details. In your rewrites, aim to have NO boring bits. The above were just suggestions of some ways to do this. Look for other ways writers deal with the same problem. Learn by reading!
And your general aim should be:
THE ISLES OF GLORY TRILOGY
THE AWARE 9780732276508
THE TAINTED 9780732276522
THE MIRAGE MAKERS TRILOGY
THE HEART OF THE MIRAGE 9780732281984
THE SHADOW OF TYR 9780732281991
THE SONG OF THE SHIVER BARRENS 9780732282004
THE WATERGIVERS TRILOGY
THE LAST STORMLORD 9780732289294
STORMLORD RISING 9780732289300
STORMLORD’S EXILE 9780732289317
published by Triconderoga publications and can be bought online as a hardback or paperback — try indiebooksonline
My last trilogy, THE FORSAKEN LANDS is published in Australia and worldwide by Hachette ORBIT, and if you can’t find it on the shelves in your local bookstore, ask them to get it in for you. (The Lascar’s Dagger, Dagger’s Path and The Fall of the Dagger.)
Available online with the exception of
HAVENSTAR and THE ISLES OF GLORY trilogy.
This is about to change (in August)
Watch this space.
|PHOTO BY ART DIGGLE|
|In this case, the Tin Duck is actually a very elegant swan.
And for those who don’t know, the Tin Duck is the colloquial name for the Western Australian award given to the Best Long Work (i.e. book) of the year in the field of speculative fiction, in this case that was published in 2016.
My thanks to everyone — it is truly an honour to receive an award because people cared enough to vote for the book!
The prize-winning book in question?
FROM THE AUREALIS AWARDS SITE:
We’re very pleased to announce that the 2016 Aurealis Awards
ceremony taking place in Perth this Friday night will be hosted by the
wonderful team of much feted WA local author Glenda Larke and debut novelist (yes, really!) and East Coast ring-in Cat Sparks!
Glenda Larke was the winner of the inaugural Sara Douglass Series Award last year for her Watergivers series, and is a multi-awards nominated
author for her books, the most recent of these being the final book of
the Forsaken Lands trilogy. Cat Sparks has earned awards over the years
for her artwork, editing, publishing and short story writing, and her
debut novel, Lotus Blue, has just been released to the world.
Join us at the Aurealis Awards ceremony this Friday night to see this dynamic duo in action!
WHEN: 7.45pm for 8pm start, Friday 14 April, 2017
WHERE: Metro Hotel Perth, 61 Canning Highway, South Perth, WA, 6151
More Details here:
Very, very chuffed to have my latest novel (The Fall of the Dagger)
short-listed for the Aurealis Awards (Best Fantasy Novel).
That means that every time I have
had a book eligible, I’ve had a short-listing… 10 times it must
I love the way the SF community in Australia does so much for
authors, volunteering their time and effort — and perhaps money in lost earnings — just to say, “We love that you folk write, and we love what you write, and we’ll take the time to show you…”
Many, many thanks to everyone.
And yes, like every book of the The Stormlord Trilogy which ultimately won the Sara Douglass Series Award, all three of the FORSAKEN LANDS trilogy have been shortlisted for the Aurealis.
Have YOU read it yet?
Congratulations to all the
short-listed authors. And to readers: choose any of them to entertain you. They are all talented Australians.
Please note that I have deleted my two Facebook accounts. One, under the name GLENDA LARKE was my public author account, the other, under my real name was private, open — I thought — only to friends invited to ‘friend’ me.
For a number of years, this worked.
Then all of a sudden I noticed that the name on my private account had been changed to GLENDA LARKE without my permission. Worse still, they had changed the privacy rating from ‘friends only’ to public. Also without permission. My private life was now open to all the world. Not that I actually I posted much up there that was private, but still.
I changed the privacy settings back again, changed the name back… And lo and behold, they reverted to what they thought it should be: Glenda Larke, public. This happened 3 times. I complained. Nobody bothered to answer. I attempted to delete my public page and leave the private one, but no, they have deleted them both.
So I am not longer on Facebook. (At least, I think so — I can’t look in order to check!)
I shall in time put up another author page, but I doubt that I will ever again post anything remotely private. This as far as I am concerned this was a betrayal of trust.
For overseas readers who may not know, Ms Hanson leads an Australian political party called One Nation and she now sits in the Australian Senate. It’s a bit of a cheeky name for her party for, as far as I can see, it serves to divide rather than unite the country.
In her inaugural speech to the senate here are a few of the sillier things she said:
“We are in danger of being swamped by Muslims who bear a culture and ideology that is incompatible with our own.”
(My comment: With your own, perhaps, but most of us aren‘t nearly as rigid in our thinking.)
“indiscriminate immigration and aggressive multiculturalism” have “caused crime to escalate and social cohesion to decline”
(My comment: Really? I’ve never seen any figures to back that up. And who says immigration has been ‘indiscriminate’ and multiculturalism has been ‘aggressive’?)
“Australia had a national identity before Federation, and it had nothing
to do with diversity and everything to do with belonging. ” (My comment: I think you need to talk to Aboriginals about the latter part of that statement.)
“Muslims want to see sharia law introduced in Australia”
(My comment: see below.)
And here is what I have to say:
Dear Ms Hanson,
I am a 71 year-old-Australian, born and bred, but who lived most of my adult life in two Muslim countries. In fact I married a Muslim and we are about to celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary here where we now live, in Western Australia. Yeah, my husband is one of those dreaded Muslim immigrants. And you know what? I don’t wear a burqa. Or a niqab. Or a hijab. Or a chador. Or even a head scarf. (Oh, although sometimes in the cold weather I do wear a furry hat and a woollen wrap that resembles an abaya... )
The trouble with your inaugural speech is that so much of it is inaccurate or downright rubbish.
Let me take this blithe, all-encompassing statement as just one example of your complete inanity: “Muslims want to see sharia law introduced to Australia.”
When I read that, I turned to my Muslim husband and asked: “Do you personally know anyone at all, here or abroad, who wants sharia law?” He thought for a while, then said, “No, I don’t think I do.”
But according to you, Ms Hanson, this is what Muslims want? Really? Wow. I personally don’t know anyone who wants sharia law either. And yet my husband and I have lived for 40 years along Muslims in Asia and North Africa. Where on earth have you been that you can say that Muslims want to have sharia law imposed anywhere, let alone in Australia?? These Muslims can’t possibly be very numerous if other Muslims never meet them!
My husband — Professor Emeritus, Ph.D., scientist, recipient of an honorary degree from the University of Western Australia and their Distinguished Alumni Award (and another two honorary degrees from universities in other countries), once a Deputy-Director General of a U.N. agency working for the peaceful uses of scientific knowledge, known for his work to raise the standard of education in developing nations — This fine Muslim moved to Australia with me a few years back. (Oh, and sorry to disappoint you, but he’s only ever had one wife — and I think his two daughters are fairly liberated females with their advanced degrees from universities like Oxford, Glasgow and Cornell.)
So, much of what you said in your speech were lies, or distortions, designed to strike fear into people. Unfortunately, this kind of manipulation worked and some 5% of voters, prior to the election, listened. (95% knew better and realised that taking anecdotes and turning them into “facts” is the mark of the uninformed.)
My personal opinion? My Muslim husband is a finer resident of this country than you are a citizen of it.