Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Vonnegut's #4

Firstly, since it's a Write Away Wednesday, I had to share this post from the fantabulicious, Sarah Enni. ">YA characters as defined by Nintendo! Check it out!

And on to tha biz...

Kurt Vonnegut presented 8 rules of short story writing. This is one set of rules I actually like. (Y'all know me and the rules.) Maybe some day I'll examine them all, but for now, let's look at number 4.
"Every sentence must do one of two things — reveal character or advance the action."

Can you sense that that rule's got me spastic?

To be fair, these rules were written for short stories, but still, some authors seem to have convinced themselves that 12 pages of desription or worldbuilding or some other background info is fine.

It's not.

Background is just that. BACKground!

The whole story may be dependent on it, but in the end, it's a base, not the story. In my opinion, a page should not go by, without some character development or plot development. Some people might think that trying to develop plot or character on every page is limiting. But for sure, you can't afford to have an entire chapter where neither the character or the plot moves. Leave out exorbitant descriptions of landscapes or houses or mythical animals. When we want that sort of detail on those things, we watch National Geographic or the DIY channel. NONfiction.

Add background to your stories like you'd add baking powder to a cake. Sprinkle lightly and mix throughout. That's the same way we notice background in real life. We don't ask someone to stop speaking so we can note the colours of the walls and layout of the kitchen. In real life, we notice actions and people. In fiction, we read for plot and character.

And every page without it is a reason to put a book down.


Marsha Sigman said...

This is so true!

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

When you wrote background is background, I got this image in my head of the backdrop to people in the foreground. That may make it easier for me to picture how the action is front and center always.

Alleged Author said...

Excellent post! I try not to put too much back story into my books, but sometimes it likes to sneak it. Bad, back story, BAD!! Stay down!