Thursday, August 09, 2007

KISSing your manuscript

What am I on about? Okay, here's a hypothetical:

It's the first chapter. Your major characters have two items to give to two other characters. One of those characters will become a major viewpoint character who is going to appear throughout the book. The other is a throwaway you'll never see again.

What purpose does that throwaway character serve? None. Is the item delivered to that person important? Nope. Answer: Out they go.

Movies can have a cast of thousands because you get the benefit of facial recognition, but with books the only point of difference is the character's name (make them all distinct) and a dimly-remembered description some pages back. Over-populate at your peril.

So, in the revised version your major characters arrive and deliver an item to another major character. Distractions are avoided, which is very important in the first chapter. Don't forget, your readers don't yet know who the major characters ARE, and if you sling five new people at them they don't know which ones they're going to be following closely.

I always look for unnecessary duplication in my books and I kill it off ruthlessly. Two trips to the same location? Forget it. Two similar characters? Merge them. Four lines of dialogue covering the same ground twice? Make it two. I strive to make every scene fresh and new and interesting, and going over old ground is none of these.

And please don't mention rewrites ... I've just tossed out four chapters from the early part of Hal 4. The new version is much better, but I now have to write all the replacement scenes. Again.

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

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