How Can Readers Know Information Unless I Tell Them?

image by TPHeinz

When information and explanations

interrupt,

slow the story’s pace, or

bore or frustrate readers

writers need to hear, “Much information and explanations

aren’t necessary,

shouldn’t be told through author intrusion,

can be fed in a little at a time,

can be given without head hopping, and

should be shown through actions and dialogue.

Here’s an example.

Information and Explanation Overkill

“How are you today, Todd?” CNA Cassie, her title meaning Certified Nursing Assistant, said to nursing home resident, Todd, a thirty-year-old man who’d been in Serenity Nursing Home since his car accident a month ago.

“No worse than yesterday.” Todd hoped Cassie would deliver his breakfast and leave. He didn’t feel like talking.

image by dfbailey

Todd was missing one leg below the knee and the opposite hand. After he’d seen his girlfriend enter a restaurant with his business rival, he’d texted her while driving. The rescue squad had to cut him out of his wrecked car.

Todd’s therapist would arrive soon. Danny had become his friend and watched TV with him after his shift.

CNA Cassie set his tray on his roll table, the kind all nursing home rooms had. “Todd, you need to eat more.” She’d checked with the nurse and learned he’d lost ten pounds because he ate less.

She was drawn to Todd and had enjoyed bantering with him until he’d stopped about a week ago. She’d thought he liked her more than a CNA or a friend.

She removed his comb from his bedside table drawer, but when she tried to comb his hair Todd stopped her with the arm that still had a hand.

Why’d Cassie always have to do things for him? She knew he could comb his hair with his right hand.

Cassie, downcast, but wanting to show she didn’t care he’d pushed her away, grabbed his laundry bag and left the room.

image by OpenClipart-Vectors

Analysis

  • Choose only Cassie’s point of view because the scene’s main purpose is to show Cassie’s feelings for Todd.
  • Save how Todd lost his limbs for a later scene to add suspense and boost a sagging story middle.
  • See below. I’ve deleted unnecessary information and explanations and worked other information into Cassie’s thoughts and dialogue to get the story moving.

Improved Scene

Certified Nursing Assistant Cassie carried a breakfast tray into Carl’s room and smiled. “How are you today, Carl?”

“No worse than yesterday,” Carl mumbled.

Cassie rolled her eyes. Every day for the last week, he’d been grumpier than the day before. If only Carl understood missing a hand and a leg below the knee didn’t make him a freak.

He thumbed the bed control device and raised himself to a sitting position. His arm stub nudged the TV remote aside on the roll table.

Cassie set the tray in front of him and opened his milk carton. “Your therapist is scheduled for ten.”

“Don’t you think I know that? Danny’s the only one I can stand around here.”

Cassie forced her smile to remain as she unsheathed his straw. “Try to eat more this morning.” She inserted the straw into the carton. “You need to gain your weight back.”

Carl grunted.

Why wouldn’t he look at her? In the first weeks, their banter had been fun. For a good-looking guy of thirty, he could have an enjoyable life. When Serenity Nursing Home released him, she’d gladly date him.

image by waldryao

“During my afternoon break, would you like me to wheel you around the garden?”

He stabbed a sausage link. “No.”

“I thought you enjoyed the walks. Would you go if someone else took you outside?”

He met her gaze as he bit off the end of the sausage. “It’s not you. I just prefer my own company.”

Her heartbeats fluttered. She wasn’t his problem. Maybe with time …

She glanced at his unruly dark curls. How she’d love to touch them. She removed his comb from the bedside table. “Let’s make you presentable for your own company.”

He pointed the fork at her. “Don’t. I can comb my own hair.” He directed the fork toward the door. “Just go.”

A knot formed in Cassie’s throat. No way would she let him see he’d hurt her. She grabbed his laundry bag and left.

How to handle explanations and relay information in your story. Click to tweet.

Look at one of your scenes. How did you relay information?

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Candace Parks lives a passionless life in Richmond. The computer programmer returns to the empty family home in the Blue Ridge Mountains solely to evaluate her job, faith, and boyfriend. Her high school crush, Trigg Alderman, who barely remembers her, visits his Gram next door. Sorting her life out? How about nothing of the sort!

 

LOVE ON A DARE BY MARY MANNERS

Alana Mulvaney’s life is in a holding pattern. Consumed by day-to-day operations of the family business, Alana has no time for fun or romance. But a little fun and a whole lot of romance is just what Alana’s sisters have in mind when they learn childhood friend Donovan O’Reilly has returned to town.
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Toni Littlebird believes that when she meets the man God created for her, she’ll know—and she’ll love him in that very moment.
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Point of View: Deepen Your Scene as You Employ It

image by geralt
image by geralt

Through two examples, I’ll show how employing point of view can enrich a scene as readers experience the setting, characterization, plot, and story theme.

I’ll use the same elements for each example.

   Character: Clara Hill, a twenty-three-year-old woman.

   Theme: A first-time teacher learns to reach and help her students.

   Setting: Classroom.

   Scene Plot: How Clara handles her first day of class.

Example 1 

Principal Edwards introduced Clara to the class then headed for the door.

He was leaving her so soon—with the black boy wearing unlaced combat boots and sitting in the last row, tying knots in the blind cord? And with the white pregnant girl, sitting in front chewing gum? Or was that tobacco?

Clara scurried to the teacher’s desk, putting the bulwark between her and the class. Seven columns and six rows of one-armed student desks. And all of them filled with lounging teens. Eighty-four eyes bearing down on her, sizing her up, following her every movement.

image by PublicDomainPictures
image by PublicDomainPictures

She grasped the English textbook with both hands. Anything to steady her trembling fingers. As she opened the book, her number-two pencil fell from its pages, rolled off the desk to the filthy terrazzo floor, and stopped at the mud-encrusted wader of the boy with one lazy eye.

She glanced at the boy. Wasn’t he going to pick it up?

“You dropped your pencil,” he said, one eye on her and the other on the pencil.

What happened to raising one’s hand to speak? And since when was a teacher expected to handle a class of forty-two miscreants? [Scene continues.]

Example 2

Principal Edwards introduced Clara to the class then headed for the door.

Clara ran her gaze over the students as she waited until the metal door clicked shut. A motley bunch, but they’d do.

image by tdfugere
image by tdfugere

She strode to the wooden desk, plopped her rump onto the spot where a lovelorn teen had engraved, ‘LILY LUVS AL,’ and crossed her legs.

“My name is Clara Hill. Ms. Hill to you.” She nodded at the teen in the back. “You who can’t decide whether to open or shut the blinds, what’s your name?”

Sniggers rippled through the students.

The boy released the blind cord. “Emmett Crowe.”

“Thanks, Emmett.” Clara’s clog nearly touched the knee of the rosy-cheeked young lady on the first row. She smiled at the girl. “What’s your name?”

“Annabel Grubbs.”

“How far along are you, Annabel?” Maybe Clara should have taken a birthing class instead of CPR.

More sniggers.

Annabel giggled, displaying brown teeth. “Thirty-four weeks.”

“My guess is you’ll miss the first unit test.” [Scene continues.]

 

Through point of view:

  1.  Clara is fearful and judgmental

OR

    is bold and direct.

2.   Clara sees 42 occupied chairs, skin color, filth, and miscreants

OR

     sees individual students, fidgeting, pregnant, and infatuated with “AL.”

3.   The way Clara handles her first day drives what needs to happen to satisfy the novel’s theme that Clara will reach and help her students (plot).

Perhaps, Clara changes her outlook and relationships with her students

OR

fights the community for the students’ good.

Put point of view to work for characterization, setting, theme, and plot. Click to tweet.

How have you put point of view to work in a scene?

Overwhelmed Revising Your Book? Revise in Theses Bites

“It’s hard to see a middle ground between marking up your book line by line and doing a complete rewrite. It’s also hard to know what to fix in revision, and even harder to know when that process is finished.—Gabriela Pereira

image by bhumann34
image by bhumann34

In the September 2015 issue of Writer’s Digest, I read Gabriela Pereira’s article, “The Great Revision Pyramid. Pereira’s pyramid offers help to revise our books without being overwhelmed or confused. We can accomplish revisions in bites, or layers.

image by PublicDomainPictures
image by PublicDomainPictures

Pereira says by making several passes through our manuscript, focusing on one important element each time, our revisions should go faster, be less confusing, and be more effective.

 

 

 

5 Revision Layers

 

Layer 1: The Narration

  • image by ClkerFreeVectorImages
    image by ClkerFreeVectorImages
    Voice and Point of View (POV) – Pereira says this important pass through our manuscripts needs to be first. She suggests we make notes on the way we tell our story, on what will and won’t work for the reader experiencing our story.
  • Quote from “The Great Revision Pyramid”
    • “Once you have decided which type of narration you want, you will likely need to ‘reboot’ the scenes that depart from that style or POV so that everything is consistent.”

Layer 2: The Characters

  • Quote from “The Great Revision Pyramid”
    • “No matter how well you think you know your protagonist, sometimes when you finally look over your work and see him anew on the page, suddenly he feels … flat. Unmotivated, even, though you know the motivations are there.”
  • image by ClkerFreeVectorImages
    image by ClkerFreeVectorImages
    If we’re having problems bringing our character alive in his motivations and goals, Pereira suggests we take him to a “sandbox” and put him into scenes outside our story to learn more about him.
  • She affirms principles about secondary characters. If they don’t support the main character’s story and growth arc, they’re expendable.

Layer 3: The Story

  • Pereira says one of writers’ biggest mistakes is to focus on plot points before characters.
  • Quote from “The Great Revision Pyramid”
    • “The danger with this approach is that it forgets that characters are the driving force in your story. When you fixate on a rigid plot structure, you leave character by the wayside. But your story exists because of decisions your character makes.”
  • by DarkSinistar
    by DarkSinistar
    So, Pereira says, if we’re having trouble plugging plot holes, we should revisit our characters.

 

Layer 4: The Scenes

  • This is the time to work on world-building, description, dialogue, and theme.
  • Quotes from “The Great Revision Pyramid”
    • “Does [the world] feel real, or do you throw a lot of information at the reader but fail to show the world in action?”
    •  “By this stage of the revision, you should instinctively know how each character speaks. … Trim your dialogue to the barest minimum that still captures the essence of each scene.”
    • “Now it’s simply a question of making sure that every scene you’ve written relates to that over all theme.”
image by nanshy
image by nanshy

Layer 5: The Cosmetics

  • This is when we go to the line level and proofread and edit.
  • Pereira suggests doing these edits last because we’ll avoid wasting time on scenes we may have deleted in the other revising layers.

 

Try this method of revising your story in bites. Click to tweet.

How do you revise your rough draft into the best book you can write?