Writing Secrets: Go on, leap – we’ll leap with you

 In Jo-Anne Richard's blog, Tips for Writers

We don’t need to follow your characters into the bathroom to brush their teeth, unless something significant happens there.

Likewise, we don’t need to know every step they take to the kitchen or the fact that they put the key in the ignition, put the car into gear, let out the clutch and drive away. For goodness sake, if they’ve driven away, we understand (and fill in for ourselves) the fact that all those essential actions took place.

If you take the leap, we’ll leap with you.

If you mention that your character knocks at the door, there must be something more to it than simply: she knocked on the door. Did she rat-a-tat a little rhythm, or use one knuckle to produce a quiet tap, or did she ball her fist and pound on the door?

One of our mentoring participants recently had her protagonist rush everywhere. She rushed through to the kitchen and back to pack her things. If the nature of her going is not significant, you can simply let her appear in the kitchen and we’ll understand that she got herself there unaided. But if the speed and precipitate nature of her passage is significant, then have her run barefoot or trip over the dining room chair on her way there.

It underlines a message about writing: everything has a job to do. No word should be there just to move your characters about your stage. Words have to work harder than that. They show us how characters do things, which gives us more insight into their personalities and their state of mind.

Read Richard’s latest blog ‘Monday Motivation: Make enemies, win wars

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