1. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    I know you love that paragraph, but take it out

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by GingerCoffee, Mar 23, 2015.

    In my head I have the whole story, I know details that happen to my character but does the reader need that detail? It's fun stuff, interesting, but if I were reading the page and not invested like I the writer am, would that detail be interesting or would I want the story to move along and not linger on these little things?

    I just cut the chafe from chapter one, focused on building tension, and much as I loved those little paragraphs of action, they went by the wayside. And I can see it was the right thing to do.
     
  2. Chinspinner
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    Chinspinner Contributing Member Contributor

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    I see it a lot in the workshop, and experience it myself. You become attached to a particular description or paragraph, and despite it not quite working, or people telling you to remove it, you hold onto it like a bad habit. It's always hard to be objective about your own work.
     
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  3. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    It's hard to be objective about your work, but you also have to realize that it's possible to cut too close to the bone. People don't want nothing but bones. There has to be some flesh. :p

    Everyone says, "This description is unnecessary! It is superfluous! Get on with the action!" They are not always right. Detail, detail in action and description and in narration, builds the world the reader wants to live in for a while. Include it. Detail immerses the reader into your story, and readers (generally - I can't speak for everybody) want to be immersed. I don't mean every little detail - that would take forever and bore readers out of their minds. But telling detail - the right detail, the detail that completes the picture - is crucial and should be included.

    The right detail enriches. The wrong detail bores. It's up to the writer to know which is which.
     
  4. aikoaiko
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    aikoaiko Contributing Member

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    Agreed. I think it's almost impossible to judge these things yourself. They're just too close. Without input most of our work would be a tangled, overloaded mess.:D
     
  5. aikoaiko
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    aikoaiko Contributing Member

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    This is absolutely true, too. You can get so hung up trying to make something 'right', or make it follow a prescribed 'rule' that you end up with nothing at all in the end. --Or nothing worth reading, anyway.
    While criticism is important it's also critical to ignore that sometimes and give yourself permission to just go nuts. It's hard to get to the good stuff without first having plowed through the bad.:(
     
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  6. Nilfiry
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    Nilfiry Contributing Member

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    Except I occasionally add paragraphs like that on purpose.
     
  7. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I beleive it was William Faulkner credited with the quote "In writing, you must kill you darlings", which has nothing to do with the death of dear characters. :)
     
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  8. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I really think this is dependent on voice and or narration. Verbosity works and so does bare bones. You've got to convince your reader to go along with the ride. With each passing day I become more and more convinced that most would be writers fail at a particular writing choice simply because they are too clumsy, not because of the choice itself.

    An idle aristocrat who is in love with his own voice is probably not going to skimp on details. You're going to hear all about Mrs. Fenston's summer hat and you, the reader, better care. Jon, the delivery guy, who spends his days banging bored housewives, might give you only the most pertinent details to the account. It depends partly on your POV, (if first person, primarily on your POV), and also on you, the writer's, voice.
     
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  9. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    That's it, that's exactly what this thread is about.

    I'm not saying to get rid of paragraphs that move the story forward, just the ones that describe some thing or event which you like and which might have occurred during the time the character was there, but which don't add anything to the story.

    What I took out of my first chapter was a lot of backstory telling. Yes it is part of the whole story. But the reader didn't need to know it in that chapter. And I took out some sitting by the campsite activities that were just fluff. Instead I concentrated on making the sounds in the night scary.

    In the end, that is what I wanted in the chapter, something to interest the reader into wanting to find out what happens. It was an epiphany, yes, I'm telling a story, but I also want to interest the reader. Some of the story is interesting to me (my darlings), but it doesn't need to be in the book.
     
  10. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I like to think of the quote as "cut your darlings". They shouldn't be THERE, maybe, but that doesn't mean they shouldn't be SOMEWHERE. Put them aside, and maybe they'll find a home somewhere else. Maybe later in that MS, or maybe in a whole different story entirely.

    They're not dead, they're just resting!
     
  11. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    This often happens to me with what I think is the beginning of a story when I start to write it. It rarely ever is the actual beginning. The actual beginning shows itself once the engine is warm and the part I cut gets folded in later.
     
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  12. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I find I tend to know fairly intuitively which bits of description is enriching and which aren't - the first telltale sign is: I get bored when I reread it. Being fairly impatient, I guess, has its advantages lol. For me, I'm always asking, "What's the point? Where is it leading?" And if it doesn't serve atmosphere, character development, and/or plot - at least one or more than one of these - then I find myself thinking, "Meh I'd love to have this detail in there but seriously, it's gotta go" even midway through writing said description.

    ^Atmosphere can be a pitfall sometimes - because even meandering detail can be said to add to the atmosphere. I find with atmosphere, it's best to develop only what's relevant to the scene. So if it's a scene of your character being terrified, don't go describing the gorgeous star-strewn sky. Describe the shadows rather, the silence. If it's a romantic scene, do describe the gorgeous strar-strewn sky - but only if your characters were looking at it or better yet, talking about it. It's basically learning to pick out details that would enhance rather than bury the story.

    However when I first started writing in earnest (that is, I edited my work rather than just blind writing), I definitely had a lot of meandering detail. For me, I loved to describe sunsets. It was only through multiple rewrites and edits that I realised those bits are pretty, and also pretty boring lol :p
     
  13. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    As a writer who loves the little things and feel that in the proper hands they make the story even more so than the plot it's hard for me to decide what stays and what goes.

    In the last few years I've been trying to keep details in the first draft precise and brief. Avoiding redundancy, boring or unnecessary details. The trouble with this is I usually can't trim scenes I have to cut whole scenes, sometimes at the point of conception. In the Worms of Wicher Woo there was to be a scene involving birds. Showing another facet of Tetty's job, that she was too be a live scarecrow. I started to write the scene than backed out of it knowing it would make the story too long. Instead I went forward with the rainout. Later I thought of retrying the scene but for some reason left it out.

    Right now I'm trying to resolve a scene in Not Pink that is in danger of being axed ( If it goes it takes another scene with it ). I like the scene ( the other scene is so-so) but right now there is no tie into the story. It has to do with Hart purchasing something for Not Pink. It's sole purpose right now is to expose a dark side of the relationships with the robots but only indirectly. Not all that important to NP or Hart. I'm thinking the object bought needs to be changed to represent something greater. I have no real problem ditching the scene but my reluctance to let it go is perhaps instinct that it could be a pivotal if only I can fix it.
     
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  14. tonguetied
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    tonguetied Contributing Member Contributor

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    I have not truly written a long story so I don't know how I will treat this subject in reality. I fear that my writing will come across more like an outline or synopsis unless I figure out ways to add "atmosphere" to the story. Doing that where everything written has a purpose, moves the story along, strikes me as something difficult to do without paring it down to bare bones and ending with a jacket cover worded story. I know, write first and self critique later, but sometimes the comments on how to write a good story seem over whelming which have made me appreciate the stories I have read, and are reading, a lot more for the work involved by the author. The more you learn the more you realize how little you actually know.
     
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  15. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    @peachalulu, In the scenes you describe about the Tetty scarecrow, I don't see a problem with the scene. It fits. The only decision is, are you droning on too much about her mistreatment, or are you building up the emotional investment the reader is making. The decision could have gone either way, but the scene had a purpose.

    The things I cut out had no specific purpose. On the one hand they filled in the evening, but they didn't make my character come across as more clever or more interesting, they made the scene more complete but it didn't need to be.

    Like this example:
    I pulled a large rock nut out of my pocket and bit into it. My jaw muscles ached more than my gut. Better to make a mash of them in the morning, I thought.​
    Who cares you can mash rock nuts to prepare them? Instead my character put:
    "the few rock nuts I’d found into my nearly empty food bag"
    It's in the first chapter, building tension was the goal, not describing how one cooks rock nuts.

    As for your addition to Not Pink, I agree, the purchased item is half the key, not the act of buying it alone. Fix it or leave it out sounds right to me.
     
    Last edited: Mar 24, 2015
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  16. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    @minstrel and @tonguetied, description matters. This isn't a mantra to remove descriptions. The idea is to look at that description and ask yourself, do I want it because I like it, or because it flavors the piece? Take @Mckk's comment as an illustration:
    Did it matter how my character cooked rock nuts? No, it mattered she was running low on food.

    In another scene her boyfriend is amazed how she cooks on the trail without pots and pans. That cooking description enhanced her cleverness. Mashing rock nuts, not so much. The mashing filled in the scene more completely but in a place it wasn't needed. It made sense to me when I wrote it, imagining my character walking back to her campsite without enough to eat. But upon edit-thought, it wasn't interesting and it added nothing to the scene.
     
  17. peachalulu
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    I liked the detail with the rock nuts but I see your dilemma, the focus wasn't on the right point. You could probably reword it to include it or hold it over for another scene. Gah - just read how that didn't work.
     
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  18. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Re the rock nuts in @GingerCoffee 's piece, I'd say it very much depends on the tone of the piece, the genre you're going for. I don't see the detail about cooking rock nuts as an issue at all, but I can see such a casual insertion of relatively unimportant detail could be distracting in certain types of stories. Casual insertions like that would be more suitable in YA novels, chick lits, possibly bestsellers and the drama genre. But it would not be suitable in, for example, literary novels, I think.

    @peachalulu - I wouldn't be too concerned about cutting detail. I haven't read your stuff but I'm under the impression that you write pretty unconventional stuff in the first place. Sometimes additional, perhaps "unnecessary" detail is part of your style - you will have to use your discretion when these details adds to the vivacity of your book, or rather it's meandering and distracting. However, I would not delete detail only because it serves no obvious purpose - personal style has a role too and adds to the tone of your story. We do live in a day and age where detail is in generally unappreciated, we want things quick quick quick all the time - but maybe you just write to a niche market, who knows?
     
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  19. GingerCoffee
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    I chuckled, I am writing YA, don't know that I'd call it Chick-Lit though, I am trying to appeal to a wide audience. :)

    The point of it not being needed is, it slowed and cluttered up what the chapter was trying to achieve. By the end of the chapter the character is alone, hiding inside her bedroll, under a heat cloak, in the woods, in the the dark with fog rolling in, and unfamiliar noises of a large animal nearby.

    As you can see, mashing rock nuts to cook them might have been an interesting darling, but it needed to be cut.
     
  20. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Lol. Well it's true mashing rock nuts certainly doesn't help the omninous fog-rolling atmosphere you want for the overall scene/chapter.

    Regarding what detail to cut - it's often about flow and pacing too. Sometimes meandering detail in a more casual, lighter scene can add to the colour of things. But if it's supposed to be intense, for example, meandering detail is distracting and breaks the tension. It's pretty much about whether the piece of detail actually fit in with the purpose as well as flow of the scene or not. Other times the detail is perfectly nice but means it doesn't lead onto the next paragraph as well as it could have, if the detail hadn't been there - in this case, if all the detail does is decoration, then axe it.
     
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  21. tonguetied
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    [QUOTE="GingerCoffee, post: 1319461, member: 53143

    Like this example:
    I pulled a large rock nut out of my pocket and bit into it. My jaw muscles ached more than my gut. Better to make a mash of them in the morning, I thought.​
    Who cares you can mash rock nuts to prepare them? Instead my character put:
    "the few rock nuts I’d found into my nearly empty food bag"
    It's in the first chapter, building tension was the goal, not describing how one cooks rock nuts.
    [/QUOTE]

    Without knowing the full story, your post above makes me think your character might be hiding and hungry and now wishing she had eaten those rock nuts since she would be fearful of revealing herself in the morning. I am guessing the "heat cloak" is hiding her but maybe I have a wrong impression. Anyway it would seem that the thought about the rock nuts would be relevant in that case, delaying eating them increased her hunger, etc. Of course only you know what your overall story is and whether that scene adds or distracts from it, and probably you do a good job of that decision process.
     
  22. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    And herein is proof of my point. That is not the story, so cooking mashed rock nuts wasn't needed in the scene. ;)

    Of course you are at a disadvantage having not read the rest of it.
     
  23. jannert
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    Yes. I think there is sometimes a push to find a one-size-fits-all writing style. That's silly. We're all different, and we like different things. If your story is slow -paced (and I do NOT mean boring!!!!) you can afford to include more in the way of detail. The pacing is different . I personally hate reading fast stories that are finished in the blink of an eye. I love immersion stories that keep me glued for days, and make me feel strange when I rejoin the 'real world' again after finishing the book. These stories would not be immersive if they didn't include a great deal of detail.

    However, @GingerCoffee is right. If you tend to over-write (like I do) some of it will need to go during the edits. The more distance you can get between the writing and the editing process, the easier it will be to cull. With distance, you will see what works and what doesn't because you'll be reading what you wrote with fresh eyes.

    You need to be prepared to cull even well-written bits—whole chapters if need be—if you discover that they don't do what you thought they would do when you wrote them. If they slow action at a point in the story where you're trying to speed it up, then they need to go. If they appear as an irrelevant distraction during a section of the book where you're trying to build emotional intensity, they need to go. If they repeat something you said earlier, and the repetition wasn't the point, then they need to go.

    But everybody's story is different. And as @minstrel said, a story with bones and no flesh is not usually a good read. And what's more, once the plot gets rocketed through, the book (and the author) are quickly forgotten.
     
    Last edited: Mar 25, 2015
  24. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I agree, but I still hold to the rule (heh) that everything in the story should be there for SOME purpose. It doesn't have to be an important purpose. It doesn't have to drive the plot. It doesn't necessarily have to be any more than, "Um...it adds to the mood I'm trying for. Somehow. Shut up and let me write." But there should be a purpose.
     
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  25. tonguetied
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    tonguetied Contributing Member Contributor

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    Just to clarify things for me a bit on this, would hooks into another related story be okay? IIRC Tolkien included some lines in his Hobbit story with "but that is another story" or something to that effect. I see a lot of people claim they are working on a multi-novel story and I have even seen advice from seasoned members say that if you actually get a story sold and it does well the publisher might ask you to write a sequel or prequel, etc. With that in mind, could it be fitting to include something that truly is not relevant in the current story but provides a pivot point to your next story?
     

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