Sometimes it can be difficult to determine which aspects of a novel need the most detail. To figure this out, think about what is needed to move the plot forward. In other words, figure out what is truly important.
Obviously, we sometimes need to describe our characters doing something “normal.” But that is not the focus of the novel. The focus should by on the “abnormal” – the things that makes the story unique. What’s different? What’s new? What experiences shift the character’s perspective or drive the character to do something?
Always keep the plot of the novel in the forefront. Detailed scenes should deal with what is integral to the plot. All the rest should either be left out, or mentioned in passing as needed. In the case of “normal,” less really is more.
There is a great post dealing with this topic entitled “Play by Play Narration” by Literary Agent Mary Kole. The beginning of the post is pasted below:
It’s time to get back to business with a craft-related post. I’ve been reading some manuscripts where the writers lapse into what I always call “play-by-play narration.” It’s the narrative equivalent of a chronological grocery list of events:
First we did this. Then we did that. He did this, and then he did that. After that, we did this. And then, that. A little bit later, we went and did such and such.
As a writer, it’s not just your job to transcribe what you imagine happens in a character’s day and think that you have yourself a plot. That’s not how it works. A large part of narration and storytelling is acting as a curator of the story. You’re supposed to maximize what’s important and minimize what’s not and keep directing your reader’s attention from paragraph to paragraph and page to page. When you’re filling up your pages with play-by-play narration, you’re giving us dull descriptions of nonessential events,… (Read the full text here)
Now, continuing on to other things….
Tonight: Don’t forget the WriteOnCon live chat. This should be a really great one with Literary Agent Suzie Townsend and Editor Maria Gomez, with Harper Collins. It begins at 9pm EST on the WriteOnCon website. Click here to learn more about Suzie Townsend and Maria Gomez. Hope to see you there!
Meredith Barnes, assistant to Literary Agent Janet Reid has begun a new blog here. She will be blogging about “publishing and digital developments/online media.” This is going be some good information, and I encourage you to check it out.
Also, I would like to give a special shout out to Julia King who had an amazing contest on her blog Writing Jewels. I loved getting the chance to participate, and I am thrilled to have won! Thanks again, Julia! Be sure to visit Julia’s blog. It is a very friendly place with lots of valuable information and insight.