Sunday, September 4, 2011

Leading questions

One thing writers often encounter when they start receiving critique is the "more, please" comment. If the piece is discussed in a large workshop, the writer can come away with 20 different requests to explain how the MC's characters met, what color the MC's eyes are, why she bites her nails, how long she's been working at her job, and so on, and so on.

A beginning writer is often tempted to answer every question, and to include all the answers in the story. That can lead to a story bogged down in irrelevant details. I've found that in reality, some of the answers belong in the story; some of the answers belong in the writer's head but not on the page; some of the answers don't matter at all; and some can lead to a wonderful new place, can break open a scene.

I don't like to dismiss any question out of hand, but at least give it a "What if?" chance. I ask myself: Do I know the answer to this question? If so, does it matter to the story? Is it interesting? Does it relate to the plot or the theme? If I don't know the answer--does it matter? Does it lead me somewhere important?


  1. Angelina: Not necessarily, though I tend to be minimalist myself. But I think there are some things the reader doesn't need to know, and some things they may prefer to fill in for themselves.