I started a book once. I’m sure it was a great book. The problem was I couldn’t get past the first few pages. It was the age-old problem. There was too much information. My interest waned as the author described each person, place, and object in minute detail. Maybe it was impatience on my part, but I wanted to get to the meat of the story.
Details are vital to any story. I won’t deny that. What we must do, is learn to discern between significant and insignificant details.
Significant details make a story come to life. … Insignificant details? They bore the reader.
Imagine this scene: A man, gun in hand, is chasing a woman through a garden. Do we really need a description of each tree, flower, and weed in the garden? Do we need a detailed description from head to toe of the woman as she runs? Of the man as he chases her? I think not. They’re not necessarily significant.
Some details are fluff. Some are absolutely necessary. The setting, now that can be vital. Is this scenario unfolding at midnight in an abandoned garden miles from the nearest town? Or is it in the garden of a posh estate where guests are scattering left and right to clear a path for her as she runs from her pursuer? Such details are significant.
More importantly, we want to know why she’s running. We want to know what she is feeling. We want to know why the man with the gun is chasing her. We want to feel emotionally connected to the characters. We want the plot. These details are significant.
Of course, a different story line introduces a different set of significant details. A young woman meandering through a garden, reminiscing of moments spent there with her beloved fiancé who has gone off to war—now I could see her stopping to admire the flowers. She might nostalgically pick a rose, one like her fiancé had given her in the past. As she brushes it close to her face, its fragrance brings back sweet memories. In this scenario the flowers are significant.
Significant or insignificant? What type of details are we writing into our letters, articles, or novels? Are we taking the time to go back and delete the insignificant? Any thoughts to share? Please feel free to write in the comment box.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Rosie Cochran
I am a pastor’s wife, former missionary, mother of four great sons, and author of three Christian suspense novels: Betrayed, Identity Revealed, and A Murder Unseen. (Available at: Amazon.com.) I have a passion for God, my family, and writing! If you want to connect with me, join me on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, and Pinterest. Interested in updates by email? CLICK HERE!
Have a question? Email Me!
If you dare, listen to yourself for a few hours. Don’t just listen to what you say, but to the internal monologue going on inside your head.
WARNING: If you really listen, it will be exhausting!
Listen to all those thoughts that would overwhelm the person sitting next to you—and maybe have them ready to commit you to some private place with tight white jackets.
Now think about your writing….
Narrating is NEVER enough. The mantra has been instilled within us: “Show, don’t tell.” And by show, we’re referring to showing through dialogue—not telling through narrative.
Dialogue is NOT enough either. It doesn’t let us get inside the character’s head. It doesn’t let us hear what the character is thinking. What your character is NOT saying is at least important as what he or she IS saying. Writing your character’s thoughts into your story can add depth to your writing. Just be careful not to overdo it.
Your character’s direct thoughts are internal monologue. These are the actual words thought by your character.
Direct thoughts are generally written in italics. When you see what appears to monologue in italics, you can pretty much be assured that you are in the mind of the character.
Just as we do not always have to use he said in dialogue, we don’t always have to use he thought when writing out internal monologue. Use common sense. If the use of Jane thought clarifies the passage, then use it.
And now for some examples from my first novel, Betrayed:
Jeremi took note of the fact that Joe had chosen to sit in the chair that afforded the best view of the room. Is he a cautious man, or is it pure coincidence that he sat there? Jeremi wondered as he sat down, angling his chair so he could see the door.
Maria heard the car pull up the drive and hurried to the front door to greet her husband.
After all these years, he’s still as handsome as the day we met. Maybe more so with the distinguished look his gray sideburns give him. She opened the door as Joe approached, a warm smile on her lips, her arms open to embrace her husband.
The deceit did not bother him. It was all for the Motherland. But to deceive one’s own children — one’s own flesh and blood…. Oh, was Maria right last night. They are so American. Will they ever forgive us?
Don’t exhaust yourself or your readers by letting all of your character’s random thoughts land onto the written page. You might think their thoughts for them, but filter them. Just as you don’t share all the internal monologue that goes on in your own mind, don’t share all of your character’s internal monologue.
Give enough to allow your readers to see the reasoning and motivation behind your character’s actions. Give enough to show your readers your character’s state of mind. Your end goal? To make your characters come alive to your readers—not just in word, but in thought, too!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Rosie Cochran
I am a pastor’s wife, former missionary, mother of four great sons, and author of three books: Betrayed, Identity Revealed, and A Murder Unseen. (Available at: Amazon.com.) I have a passion for God, my family, and writing! Follow me on Twitter and Facebook.
Have a question? Email Me!
Can you teach an old dog new tricks? That’s what we’re going to find out. My newest novel, A Murder Unseen, is polished and published. Though it feels like now I should stop, relax, and take a deep sigh of relief, I know that is not the case. The journey has just begun. Now comes marketing.
For one who would have loved to live in the era of writing under a pen name and being the mysteriously anonymous writer, for one who was raised to not toot one’s own horn or promote self, marketing can be viewed as downright embarrassing. It cuts across the grain of how I think, of who I am.
Somehow, I’ve managed to write and sell two books without drawing excessive attention to the fact that I’ve written them. What an accomplishment, right? Not really. I’ve found there’s another type of embarrassment when friends you’ve known for years looked shocked at the revelation that you’ve written not only one book, but several. Why were they never told? Um… . How do I explain my secret obsession with writing?
There remains the fact that people don’t buy books they don’t know exist, that marketing while trying to remain as invisible as possible really isn’t marketing at all. Yes, I sold books. Yes, I broke even. Yes, I made a profit. However, I didn’t sell enough books to warrant continuing writing books—and I love to write. Therefore, does it not make sense to learn to market if only to justify the time and energy put into the creation of my books? Can you teach an old dog new tricks? I’m not sure, but I’m willing to try.
- The invisibility problem in self-publishing (teleread.com)
Writing is a passion of mine. There’s nothing like seeing a mumble-jumble of disjointed thoughts falling from your pen onto the written page, seemingly morphing into clarity by the mere act. Writing forces the randomness of our thoughts to merge, to narrow to a single idea at a time. Writing can bring clarity.
Writing can be therapeutic. By putting our thoughts, feelings, fears, dreams and goals down into the written word, we can begin to sift through them. We can begin to distinguish between the realistic and the unrealistic. We can write our own way from undecided to a clear conclusion. Writing can help to ground us.
Writing can also be just plain fun. You get an idea in your mind. It sits there. You mull it over. The idea grows into a story. The story begs to be written. And the fun begins. Writing can be an outlet for creativity.
Can’t you see why writing is a passion of mine? Is it also your passion?