A post at Kill Zone Blog: Cutting the DULL from Your Scenes
We talk a lot here at TKZ about opening pages. We all know how important they are to agents, editors, and readers. But we should think the same way about every scene in our novel. And thus to the topic for today: Cutting the DULL from your scenes. To wit …
And then James Scott Bell goes on to identify failures that lead to boredom in the following four categories:
Description Dumps: Always describe your scenes in words that reflect the tone, which you’ll most often find in the mind of the viewpoint character.
Uninteresting Characters: When you think about the scene you’re going to write, plan one action (even if it’s just a line of dialogue) a reader won’t see coming. A good practice is to make a quick list of the things the average reader might expect to happen…then don’t do those things.
Lethargic Action: The story question should involve death stakes (physical, professional, or psychological). Otherwise, why should the reader care?
Leaden Prose: Try things. Make up wild metaphors, not to use (necessarily) but to stretch. Read challenging prose, even in nonfiction. Read poetry out loud.
Well, boring description, characters, action, and prose does pretty much does seem to cover the topic, yes. More at the link, of course, but I was more curious about the proposed solutions, so those are the bits I pulled out. A lot of the time, the solutions to problems like the above are things like Be lively in your writing, which isn’t very helpful. I am, of course, not nearly analytical enough to pause and think Now what is something the reader won’t see coming? I hope I surprise the reader on a pretty consistent basis without having to stop and think about how to surprise the reader.
However, a suggestion to read poetry seems more useful, doesn’t it? That actually seems like a really good suggestion! I like poetry, of course, and perhaps that was useful in developing my ability to write. Yes, certainly, by all means: read poetry to develop a feel for language! Bell suggests Robert W. Service. I have not, to the best of my knowledge, encountered this poet previously. Let me find a poem by Robert W. Service. All right, here:
If starry space no limit knows
And sun succeeds to sun,
There is no reason to suppose
Our earth the only one.
‘Mid countless constellations cast
A million worlds may be,
With each a God to bless or blast
And steer to destiny.
Just think! A million gods or so
To guide each vital stream,
With over all to boss the show
A Deity supreme.
Such magnitudes oppress my mind;
From cosmic space it swings;
So ultimately glad to find
Relief in little things.
For look! Within my hollow hand,
While round the earth careens,
I hold a single grain of sand
And wonder what it means.
Ah! If I had the eyes to see,
And brain to understand,
I think Life’s mystery might be
Solved in this grain of sand.
All right, I do like that. I just clicked on the first poem title that caught my eye, so I had no idea what to expect. Fine, sure, let’s see what Amazon happens to have available … ah, look at this: here is a book of Robert Service’s collected poetry for $0.99, if you would like a Kindle version. Okay, I’m picking it up because at that price why not. I like something short to read at bedtime, right before I turn off the lights.