I've caught up with my blog comments on previous posts, some of which I hadn't seen until today. (I do appreciate comments and try to respond to all of them.)
I've mentioned that I have been cleaning out boxes of old writing, keeping some stories and discarding others.
materials I'm discarding are those that just didn't work (most of which
were rewritten later and better). Here are some examples of pointless
details I included in early stories:
"She chattered on about the family while I packed and got my change ready for the bus."
"I put stronger light bulbs in the lamps ..."
This is what I mean when I say, "Skip the boring parts."
by far the biggest flaw I'm noticing is a tendency to have characters
tell other characters big chunks of exposition. Sometimes it's telling
what I should be showing. For example:
"'It's just that Sarah's going to be away and I think he's scared of being alone. He's been like that since his heart attack.'"
I could have let the reader figure out that the character is afraid, and why.
Or this, from a story about girls who had just lost a battle to try to establish a girls' basketball team at their school:
got their flimsy cover-up excuse. No money for an all-girls' team. And
we can't join the boys' team because, according to the impartial Coach
Timothy, we're not good enough. Not that he's prejudiced, or anything.
It was perfectly fair of him to tell us to hit the showers after two
minutes of warm-ups. Hell, anyone can make decisions about team cuts
after watching us run a lap and a half.'
'He did let us shoot some baskets.'
'Yeah. Two lay-ups, which I made. One foul shot, which I made. You got one foul shot, which you missed. ...'"
thing about that dialogue is that the characters are recounting events
that they both know about, because they both witnessed them firsthand
in each other's presence. A perfect case of As-you-know,-Bob!
(In addition, that story was very soapboxy, lacking any complexity or nuance.)
it's not all drivel. My favorite finds are stories I'd forgotten about,
or stories that are as interesting as I'd remembered. I like best the
ones where a character is an interesting situation right from the first
paragraph, and is observing and reacting in the moment. The ones where
there's a little mystery, something not quite right, a source of
tension. That's what I always aim for, but it's not easy to hit that