Sunday, June 6, 2010

Keep the Story Moving

Has it happened to you? Have you found yourself living a story? The author, a master storyteller, has pulled you into the story to the point where you find yourself living and breathing it. I love it when that happens.

Equally, I hate it when that author jerks me around by throwing in a flashback when none is needed or throwing in extra description that I don't care about. For example, I don't need to know that the victim noticed the terror in his own eyes as he ran by his reflection in the window on his way to the door to safety.

I'm immersed in the story... I'm running for my life with that victim... just get us to the door. I know he is terrorized... we both are.

My point: Don't stop the reader for no good reason. It pulls the reader out of the mood of the story, and most often, it's hard to get that mood back in the same intensity.

Now, don't misunderstand me. I'm not saying you can't give your reader some relief from the terror-driven, fast pace of your story. I'm saying don't bring the story to a screeching halt for no reason.

I recently read a story riddled with flashbacks. The story starts out with a guy on a bus and after he settles into his seat, he starts thinking.

The first half of the book is told in flashbacks... several of them. The author was skilled enough in writing the flashbacks that he brought the reader back into the present day at the same point he took him/her out, but this wasn't all that hard to do since the guy was still sitting on a bus. But, the author was not skilled enough to know that some of us might get motion sickness from all this in and out action with the flashbacks.

Now, I'm not saying you should never use flashbacks. A flashback can be a good technique when needed.

My advice: Before using extra description or flashbacks, analyze what that technique might do to the story. Keep things moving forward as much as possible.

What do you think?


Mason Canyon said...

I love those stories that draws you in. You're reading along and suddenly realize you're holding your breath because of something that has happened or is about to happened in the story. LOL. Flashbacks can be useful if they are woven into the story right. Great post.

Thoughts in Progress

Jeff King said...

Great points... I agree.

Make everything you write have a direction forward, if it stays still or moves sideways it does the reader no good.

I am not perfect, my writing is a long way from top level, but I strive to accomplish this. All I can hope for is my critic readers tell me the truth... so I don't have this in my work.

The only reason I use a flashback is to get in some back story in an interesting way… i.e. dialog, scene and feeling… but it must be swift and very—very—rare, and of course relevant.

Midwestern Mama Holly said...

I think you're right. I also think I have a habit of doing this. I get so wrapped up in the story that I feel the need to give all the details to the readers, even if may not always be necessary.

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