Jan Fields (cute_n_cranky) wrote,
Jan Fields

Pontificating Monday

I read a lot of new writer work. Sometimes it's really nice as it reminds me of things I want to do and things I don't want to do. Sometimes it just makes my head hurt. But recently I read yet another story with a problem I see a lot. The "let me tell you all this stuff I know and then I'll start the story" problem.

These beginnings tend to sound like this: "Joey Weber is ten years old. He's a nice kid who is generally polite and obedient but doesn't always do as well as he could in school because he daydreams. Joey has a big imagination. This can be good when it's time to write a story in Language Arts class. But it can be bad when Joey is trying to figure out why his parents are geting a divorce. His parents are worried about him. His dad is a lawyer. His mom is a electrician. They're both away from home a lot with work, and now the times they are home are pretty tense. They suspect something is going on with Joey that they ought to know, but he's not talking. And they're so caught up in their own problems that sometimes they forget to ask. So it's a tough time in the Weber household as they prepare to become two households."

And that would be a short one. I've seen these "blah, blah, blah" beginnings last two or three pages. And in a short story, that doesn't leave a ton of room for the STORY part which is usually fairly unrelated to all that opening blather. As a result, the blah-blah writer tends to have trouble with word count, and showing (since they tend to cut out the wrong stuff when trying to get down to word count).

The really sad part? -- I've done these blah blah blah beginnings. Oh, sure, not in third person with viewpoint shifts. I'd like to think I'm a far enough along in my writing to avoid that. But I have done them when writing in first person in a voice I particularly like. I fall in love with the character's voice and I just let her talk...and talk....and talk. And then I realize...good heavens, she's blathered on for three pages without a single scene. And I have to cut all that out.

On the plus side, just writing the first person blah-blah-blah helps me solidify the voice, and as long as I cut it out before inflicting it on my critique partner or sending it to an editor, I'm fine. Doing the blah, blah, blah might be serving a similar purpose for a new writer. It might be helping get the story rolling. But...please...don't forget the cutting-that-crap-out-of-there part. Because, honestly, an editor isn't ever going to get to READ your story because he's going to stop in the middle of the blah, blah, blah and look for your SASE for the rejection.

I know I'm preaching to the choir here so forgive my ramblings. Sometimes it's good to get some of the windiest bits of my pontification off my chest before I go respond to a new writer story.
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