1. PyrZern
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    PyrZern Member

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    What's your take on...

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by PyrZern, May 26, 2013.

    What's your take on filler chapters that don't really add to the story, but instead to the characters development ? Or for building lore or background story.

    The reason I ask is because I am a fan of tv shows. And we all know many episodes are just there for the week without adding to the real plot or arc.

    What do you folks think about this in novels ?
     
  2. ProsonicLive
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    ProsonicLive Senior Member

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    I think that this practice adds to a lot of peoples desire to skip pages unless you are that awesome of a storyteller. You could most likely get away with one chapter of this, but I would personally stick with blending backstory with arc given piece at a time. a seamless story is always better than one that requires its reader to "keep this in mind". If you can get it done in your first chapter, even better. the problem with what you are talking about is not so much one of content, but of pace. if you are going out of your way to add next to useless content, you my want to re-examine the events of your story and their effects they have on your characters. TV can get away with "filler" episodes because there are already developed characters doing some immediate activity that has a conclusion. You don't have this luxury in writing. if a flashback for a character is needed to fill in a gap, by all means, use a whole chapter. But to use a chapter just for,and only for, character development is a good way to break interest in a lot of readers.
     
  3. Xatron
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    Xatron Contributing Member

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    As prosonic said before, filler chapters are one of the most certain ways you can make your reader skip pages/drop the book altogether.
    Filler chapters are chapters completely disconnected from the main storyline. They contribute neither to the character development nor to the lore or background story as they occur in something like a parallel universe and they have no effect on the main story whatsoever.
    They are usually employed by anime adapted from manga and they are used to let the manga version progress further so that the anime version doesn't catch up.
    As for my opinion on them, it is pretty simple. HATE THEM!HATE THEM!HATE THEM!HATE THEM!HATE THEM!HATE THEM!HATE THEM!HATE THEM!
     
  4. Aprella
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    Aprella Senior Member

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    I hate it! I Hate it!

    I like it when there is a break for the action sometimes, but what is happening during the break so to say, should still move the story forward. Character development should happen during plot events in my opinion. Conversation and actions can say a lot about a character. I do think it's possible to use a couple of pages to tell something about someone/something that does not to do anything with the plot but it should still be handy for the reader to know and no whole chapters please.
    Christopher Paolini made this mistake in Brinigr. There is this moment were a sword is being forged but they go into so much detail (I had the feeling he was boasting about how much he knew about that certain type of forging) and it didn't contribute to the story at all in my opinion. It was a really struggle to get through that part :/
     
  5. ProsonicLive
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    ProsonicLive Senior Member

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    If you need to explain something, set up a scene with a likewise knowledgeable character where it can be explained. This happens a lot with in depth space odysseys as well where something is scientifically explained. again, it can be done through dialogue
     
  6. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    ditto all of the above for me!
     
  7. blackstar21595
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    blackstar21595 Contributing Member

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    If the writer is good, then they can weave together plot development while increasing character development.
     
  8. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Lose them.
     
  9. ProsonicLive
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    ProsonicLive Senior Member

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    If you INSIST on these filler chapters, there is one caveat. Have them tie directly to the storyline. this really only works if your story covers vantage points of other characters where those characters are part of the narrative. the last thing you want to do is spoon-feed info to the reader with no development. I think this is what ruined what would have been an epic story....DUNE
     
  10. doghouse
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    What do you actually mean by filler chapters?

    Are you suggesting scenes where the character will reflect on the previous incidents?
    I
    Those type of scenes are called sequels.

    They shan't progress the plot, but allow us to understand the character more. What they are feeling, the dilemmas they face, and how they make decisions. Sure, it can slow pace of the story, but they shouldn't be dull and something a reader considers skip-able.

    So.

    Scene -- stuff happens, action, goals, conflict disasters.

    Sequel -- reaction/emotion, dilemmas, decisions.

    There's a cool site to explain this: http://www.advancedfictionwriting.com/articles/writing-the-perfect-scene/

    I once used it as a guide, and tweaked it for my own ends.

    In regards to backstory/world building, well, tough call. If you can work it into the action -- and not make it passive, and not in too huge a chunk -- then it can work. Without any background information, the story could be difficult to follow. And anyway, some readers will love that detail, some wont. Know your audience.

    Saying all this, if you really are on about writing scenes to pad a story. Well, I think you may run the risk of boring the reader to death. *grins*
     
  11. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I think ANY type of chapter or scene can be boring, if it doesn't move at the proper pace, or contains nothing but flatly-delivered information about a character, setting, situation, whatever.

    How on earth can a reader decide if a chapter is 'filler' or not, until they've read it? If the scenes link to character development outwith the action-based plot of the story, well I'm happy with that—as long as the chapter really does develop the character and is interesting to read. So-called "filler" can move the story forward, in that the reader comes to understand the character, motivation, setting, etc in more depth. People who just want to skim through a fast book won't like this. People who like to dig into a long story will. Both kinds of books exist, and both can become best-sellers. It's a matter of personal preference. None of these kinds of writing styles are written in stone—despite what some folks may say.

    I don't necessarily need my fiction to be 'fast.' I enjoy settling down to a good, long, read, as long as my interest is absorbed by what I'm reading.

    My feeling here is: as a writer, write what you think needs to be there. Everybody's taste is different. I get really annoyed with 'reading prejudices,' actually. There are many of them. I do believe in trusting the author; trust that what they're putting in front of you is necessary to the story they are telling, no matter what form it takes.

    If, at the end of a book, you decide you didn't like it, for whatever reason, then fine. You probably won't read that author again. If partway through the book you lose interest, fine. Put it down, by all means, and go somewhere else. Life is too short to spend time reading books you don't like. But if you don't like it, it won't be because somebody has included a chapter that develops backstory. It'll be because that chapter isn't very well-written!
     
  12. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    The character development should be part of the plot, surely. And it makes no sense to have an entire chapter of so-called "character development" where nothing else happens. What you have there is what people call "The Waiting Room". Now think of the last time you sat in the waiting room for a doctor's appointment, or something similar. How much did you enjoy the Waiting Room experience? The first 10min is fine, but after an hour, just how much do you just wish people would get on with it?

    It's really no different in novels. If anything, readers are less patient.

    If you need filler chapters, then you don't have a thick enough or good enough story. If you have a good enough story, you won't even have space for filler chapters, there would be no need of them and you wouldn't have anywhere to put them even if you wanted to. In short, fillers are for bad writers.
     
  13. ProsonicLive
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    ProsonicLive Senior Member

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    you can tell if a chapter is a filler or not within a few pages. It is usually when you start getting bored with what is happening or being explained. one starts asking themselves. "did I really need to know this"? and while I understand not all books are fast paced, reading one that has a fast pace, then slows down A LOT, then speeds up for only a bit, then stops to explain, feels a lot like riding in a bumper car. can be fun, but try staying in a bumper car for 3 hours.

    I read what I like, and when I get a book passed off as something it is not, written in a very unorthodox form I get pissed. and I have a right to.
     
  14. jdforbes
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    jdforbes New Member

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    If your Chapter develops the story you are good, if it's some kinda unfinished dog house, don't tell people about it.
     
  15. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    So totally true. However, I do hope you're not implying that because you didn't like it, the author shouldn't have written it that way? And I think you'll find that no matter how much you dislike a book, there are people out there who won't share your opinion. That's the breaks.

    Authors always take their chances when they put their work out there. If most people don't like what they've written, it won't sell well. It might not even get published unless they do it themselves. That's their choice.

    Same with any other art form: music, painting, films, theatre. Trying to tell writers that they SHOULD or SHOULD NOT write a particular way to appease the taste of the majority is dictatorial, whether it's about content or form. Freedom to write, draw, paint, make music or any other kind of art form to suit yourself—and whatever audience you can attract—is what freedom is all about, basically.
     
  16. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    If it's developing the character, then it's not really a "filler" chapter.

    I remember once an established critic was on television discussing movies. He talked specifically about the movie Fargo and the scene where the investigator (Marge) has lunch in Minneapolis with a guy who used to go to her high school. He's very strange, and the exchange has nothing at all to do with the plot of the movie. But the movie critic pointed out that it is a brilliant and important scene because it shows so much about her character. I suppose there could be a discussion about how valid this point is for that particular scene, but nevertheless, it shows that it is acknowledged that scenes, even "out there" scenes that seem totally unrelated and don't advance the plot, can be a valid and important part of a story.
     
  17. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i'm currently reading a novel by an otherwise very fine writer who bores and annoys me to distraction by constantly interrupting the story's progress with pages of detailed 'relations' and squabbles between the m/c cop and her live-in lesbian lover that have nada to do with pursuing the criminal she's supposed to be bringing to justice... to me, it's a waste of paper and ink that artificially plumps up a too-short ms into respectable novel size... and, for the record, it would bother me just as much if it was a hetero affair... it's the uncalled for breaks in the story that bug me, not the sexual orentation of the m/c...

    oddly enough, her other series novels [dealing with sherlock holmes and his 'partner-then-wife' mary russell] don't suffer from the same fatal flaw... all of their interactions are plot-related...

    so, it's not just filler chapters that should be avoided, imo, but any filler anything...
     
  18. Michael O
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    Michael O Contributing Member

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    A bit confusing..."Thank God I'm an Atheist!" Huh?

    Why would you refer to something that's adds to the character and story background as filler? "Taste great, less filling" comes to mind. Always thought a good story was anything but a "Lite Beer." It's body my boy, body. And like Ricky Nelson sang...
    "I learned my lesson well
    You see, ya can't please everyone
    So ya got to please yourself
    Lott-in-dah-dah
    lot-in-dah-dah-dah."

    My guess...You're watching some real sheity TV shows. They don't call it an idiot box for nothing.
     
  19. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Yes, when I saw the word "filler" in the subject line, I heard that little DING-DING-DING-DING-DING in the back of my head, followed by my inner-writer voice shouting, "Out!!"
     
  20. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Totally agree, chicagoliz. Great example! It's a movie, not a novel, but the idea is the same.

    I'm with you on this one, mammamaia! It really does appear to be filler, when the 'development' of the character within the relationship isn't crucial to the plot. Do you suppose this particular author is being pressured by her publisher to finish another book? Pronto! Pity, if that's the case. The author must feel really annoyed, knowing it's not her best work that she's forced to deliver on time!
     
  21. Emily Kevil
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    Emily Kevil New Member

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    I agree. Character development is crucial and often necessary, I think, before major plot advancements can be made. And even in parts of books mainly focused on character development, there are often very subtle plot advancements. Filler chapters, then, would just be chapters that are completely irrelevant to the characters or plot... so they should obviously but cut.
     
  22. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i don't think it's from her being rushed... more the she wanted to corner the lesbian mystery fan market... unlike patricia cornwell who is 'of that persuasion' king isn't... oddly enough, cornwell's kay scarpetta is 100% hetero, while hetero king's kate martinelli [both of italian descent!] is decidedly [and to me, boringly] not...

    plus, i don't see that writing so much detailed 'honey, i'm home!' and what comes after lovey-dovey stuff can be any less time-consuming than adding more to the actual story...

    it's just as annoying as having a series m/c spend too much time dallying with a hetero partner in scenes that are filler-only and add nothing to the story... i've come across those, too, and skip over the gory details just as quickly, since sex has never been a spectator sport for me... if i wasn't doing it, reading about someone else doing it was boring as bleep... plus, most writers don't write it well, leading me to assume they don't do it well, either... same goes for those embarrassingly long scenes in movies, when i grit my teeth and wish they'd get it over with quck, so i can find out what happens next in the damn story...
     
  23. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Yeah, I agree. Maybe it's just padding, because the rest of the story isn't rich enough. Pity. Oh well, maybe this is just an unfortunate blip.
     
  24. DeathChamberzMusic
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    DeathChamberzMusic Member

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    It's gotta move the story in a way that makes you want to and need to read the chapters
     
  25. TerraIncognita
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    TerraIncognita Aggressively Nice Person Contributor

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    Filler is a bad idea regardless of what type of filler it is. Filler is unnecessary and typically mind numbingly boring. Character development should be interwoven with the plot.

    I do write things that would be considered filler for my own use to help me get to know my characters but it is always a side thing and not in the final work. It's perfectly alright to spend time figuring out your characters and how they interact with others and react to different situations. It's not always relevant to the plot and when it's not it needs to be cut.
     

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