Fine Tuning Your Story – Cutting what’s not essential

Posted on Friday, September 11th, 2009 at 4:34 pm

Simply take away everything that isn’t the story ( you may have to add some stuff later.)

Look for BIG blocks of stuff that are not necessary. I’m talking about whole scenes or sections of scenes, entire characters (often minor ones), rambling dialogue, anything that doesn’t move the story forward or have any impact later  in the story.

One of the reasons I find this hard to do is because sometimes I think I have written something absolutely brilliant and I don’t want to get rid of it.

But you must ask yourself does this reveal anything about the main characters, does something happen later because of this? If your answer is no, then take it out but keep it for something else. Sometimes I get a new story idea from something I have scrapped previously.

When submitting articles to a magazine or a contest there is always a word maximum. I can honestly say every time my story has been over the word count and I’ve  had to eliminate words, I’ve  always felt I ended up with a better story. One that  moved faster, and flowed better.

Adding what’s essential

Remember it’s not the reader’s job to fill in the blanks, that’s the writer’s job. It’s  the writer’s story and the writer’s characters. What a reader wants to do is read something that allows him to use his imagination as he wanders through streets in Paris or the land of another planet.

Watch for too many scenes in which characters never talk. Direct dialogue is always more dynamic than a whole page of inner thoughts or strictly narrative information. There is a time for character thoughts when we want to portray personality, (but you don’t  need every single bit of dialogue.)

Look at your scenes with this in mind:

Do my characters need to talk more? Do more? Think more? Be described more? Live in a more vivid scene?

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