Thursday, November 12, 2009

You Might Want to Know

When we write, we often insert information that isn’t important. Some people call this backstory, but this information doesn’t have to deal with backstory at all. It could be description of the current scene or it could be foreshadowing as well, but we stick it in, thinking the reader needs this information to understand why a character will do what he is doing or think what he is thinking. Most of the time, this excessive information takes away from the story and should be deleted.

Imagine that your story is a ticking clock. With each action word, the clock ticks forward, carrying the reader along with it. But suppose you don’t use an action word. Consider this example:

Tom brought his Camry to a halt. Opened the door and ran around to the front of the car to see how badly the man was injured. The man was in his late fifties and carried a cane. The cane was on the ground. “Are you alright?” Tom asked.

Notice how the description of the man brings the ticking clock to a standstill. In this case, that may be important information, but often we use information that isn’t that important. We’re afraid that the reader won’t get it if we leave it out, but the reader doesn’t want to see it. Whenever we find the clock has stopped, we should consider the words we have chosen. If there is any way to get rid of the dead section, we should yank it out and either reword it or not say what we have said.