Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Killing The Non-Smoking Guns

This week I'm revising my novel and feel almost ready to send it out in search of a publisher.

So imagine how silly I feel when I find I've written an entire long paragraph about a woodstove.

Now this post could almost have been entitled "Kill Your Babies" because that's what I had, a lyrical and long description of a woodstove, based on, yes, an antique parlor stove that I once owned and loved. I adored the woodstove. I adored the description.

The problem here is that no matter how beautiful the woodstove was, and no matter how driving my description might have been...

The woodstove had absolutely no point in the plot whatsoever. That's right. It didn't perform any function. Nobody got burned on it, nobody touched it, nobody gained any realizations from fondling its lovely cast iron exterior. Well okay, it DID dry my protagonist's clothes.

It didn't even belong to a major character. The very minor characters who owned it were there for only one chapter, just serving as a safe place and a way to get my protagonist back to civilization.

So why was I waxing gloriously on about it? Oh damn, it hurt my heart, but I clipped the long paragraph the heck out and threw it away. Maybe I can use it someday in another book where it WILL be pertinent.

At the same time, I had noticed (see my previous post, Too Much Tea - Vary Your Scenes) that a lot of my scenes were involving cooking and mealtimes. Okay, I'm a pretty dedicated cook and foodie, so maybe that's normal, but I was determined to have some of my characters do something OTHER than cook or eat food in the revision.

Late at night, having shut off my computer, I came up with an IDEA. Rather than having a particular scene happen at the breakfast table, I'd put my characters in the living room. Firebuck (a secondary character) would be cleaning his rifle in case the evil faeries showed up. To contrast that, Cath (another secondary character) would be potting some flowers that had already shown up on the porch in a previous description. Falling asleep, I loved the juxtaposition of war and peace and the fact that it would get me away from the "food scenes".

So what was wrong? Well in an earlier-written (but occurring later in the story) scene, Firebuck does tote his rifle around for a bit. Firebuck doesn't use a gun in the end of the novel. I realized that if I added the gun-cleaning scene, readers would THINK it was a clue and be disappointed in the end when they found out it wasn't. Especially since I would now have TWO scenes with the gun in it. Guns don't work terribly well on evil faeries. Just an FYI.

Ouch. So there go my guns and woodstoves. Is my novel better for it? Definitely.

Unless you intend for them to be Red Herrings, get rid of your extraneous plot items. If you show an item and wax glorious about it, the reader will expect you to include it in the resolution of your story. If the item is a weapon, such as a gun, garotte or knife, all the more reason why your reader will expect it to show up at the end and be useful. If not, you risk the possibility of reader confusion and disgust.

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