Saturday, May 16, 2009

More than the bones

Posted By: Pauline Trent
Working On: Final edits
Mood: Hello...final edits!

We are taught from our earliest English classes - every story needs a beginning, middle and end.
Jenna talked about a house or structure. I, like Delle and so many others, think of my stories as bodies. Another friend of mine considers his stories hamburgers. I can’t tell you how many times he and I have been fleshing out a story and he has said “okay, let’s add the lettuce and tomatoes” or I’ve gotten a call with the message “I just put the bun on another one.”


For some writers, finding the beginning, middle and end is a process in and of itself. For others, those are the easy parts. The basic story is just there, full-blown, in their heads one day, with only the transitional scenes left to discover. For some authors, it’s a blend of the two. An author I know tends to find the beginning and middle easily but struggles more with the last two paragraphs of all his works than any other part of it. It’s The End, one of the big three. I get it. Who the hell wants to eat a bun and call it a burger?


For me, though, the transitional scenes that tie the big scenes together are how I know if I like an author or not. Leave them out, all I have are a series of vignettes. Have too many of them and the story gets lost. Make them too pointless, no matter how much exposition I get or character development I get, I’m bored and the story is no further ahead than it was ten pages ago.


As an author, I spend more time on my transitional scenes than the big scenes. I know what absolutely must happen to move the story forward, to keep my readers interested and invested in this story. While I won’t say writing those are easy, I will say they are the scenes that come the easiest. But those transitional scenes…the sinew that run through the muscle, the decorative touches, the fresh ground pepper and cheese, choose your metaphor because whatever you call them, they are what make writing the challenge and such frustrating fun. Striking the balance between enough transition and flow, and pages upon pages of dialogue over dinner (my own personal weakness) is vital to the success of any novel.


Just as that hamburger needs flavor, a story needs more than a beginning, middle and end. But just as too much seasoning destroys your lunch, too much filler will destroy your story. And I just put a bun on that one.


~ Pauline

4 comments:

Genene Valleau said...

Final edits--how wonderful! I'm still working on "just edits" of my work-in-progress.

Interesting thoughts about transitions. Though I make notes about these, I usually finish them up as part of my editing process and they seem to come fairly easily.

Had to chuckle about the hamburger analogy--very cute!

Minnette Meador said...

I'm with you, Pauline. My favorite part is writing the transitions. It's like the spicing part of cooking...and I love to cook. :)

therese said...

Thanks for posting this about transitions! I know what you mean, the main scenes can be easier, but building up to them takes time and talent. Every breathe and flavor has to matter and grow.

Then it's time to bight into the awesome burger - yum!

Jessa Slade said...

You have just given me a new shorthand for my CPs: "Needs BLT." Ha. They're going to kill me. Then you.