Now that I’ve covered the meat and potatoes of a “good story” let’s talk about what kind of seasoning you should add to your meal. When you eat your dinner, have you ever tried it and thought that it lacked a certain seasoning or condiment? Have you ever cooked something and watched people ruin it by adding an insane amount of salt, pepper, and/or ketchup?
Now, understand that when books are concerned, readers can’t add those types of condiments. However, there’s one thing that fans can do to distort the fiction that you’ve spent so long to create. That’s right, I’m talking about fan fiction. For those that don’t know that term, fan fiction are stories that take place in the universe of your book. The stories may vary between fan created characters interacting with your “canon” characters or alternative stories that involve the “canon” characters placing them in different situations.
And those situations can get pretty weird people. Fun Fan Fiction Fact (or what I like to call the Quadra-F): Fifty Shades of Grey was originally a Twilight fan fiction. I’m not sure what’s creepier: a story about angsty teenagers that have immortal stalkers watching them while they sleep or a story about a poor reporter falling in love with a rich dude with a certain fetish that’s based on that angsty teenage/stalking vampire romance.
Now, before I have the Fan Fiction community finding out where I live and coming for me with pitchforks and torches, I want it known that there is absolutely nothing wrong with fan fiction. For some writers, it’s easier to write a story using the characters, plot, and world building that another author has tirelessly crafted. I’ve always maintained that it doesn’t matter what you write (within legal limits that is), it’s that you write. Writing fan fiction could be your way to grow as a writer and I would hate to discredit that idea.
On the flip side of things, if you spent hours slaving away to create this intricate feast for your loved one and when you serve it to them they decide to take that meal and create a completely different meal and serve it to other people. Even though that’s a scenario that would most likely never happen, it fits my rather thin comparison I’m trying to make so I’m going with it.
Plus, it’s derivative. What happens if someone reads your fan fiction and then decide to write a fan fiction about your fan fiction? What happens is that you’re now entering into Inception my friends.
How much detail should an author write before it gets excessive? Well, that really depends on the story that author is telling. For example: A reporter is writing his editorial about the story writing process. Unbeknownst to the reporter, a crazed fan has broken into his house with plans of killing him. Now in this fictional narrative, the author of the story decides that the reader really should know about that laptop the reporter is using. It’s a 2011 MacBook Air with a nine inch screen and it runs the latest OS which is Sierra version 10.12.6 and the processor is a 1.6GHz Intel Core 2 Duo with a memory of 4GB and runs the NVIDIA GeForce 320M 256 MB graphics card. It’s also a metal grey with some weird space decals covering the apple on the front of the laptop, but just the left half of it.
That paints a rather detailed picture of the laptop, to be sure, but is it really needed in the story? Yes and no. If the author decides to use the laptop as an essential part of the narrative later on then maybe those details are warranted.If the author has the reporter defend himself against the crazed fan by bashing the laptop upside the fan’s head, then as an editor I’d have the author remove those excessive details.
If you give your readers too much details, it bogs down the flow of the narrative. Doing that may cause the readers to become aware of the real world and put down the book.
Besides, readers read because they want to enrich their imaginations. If you force feed them too many details, their imaginations won’t be able to do its thing.
Lightly salt that story with details, don’t drench the thing in it!
I think that ends this series on what I believe it takes to write a “good story.” There’s more ingredients to be sure and maybe I’ll do another series. A part two, if you will. Thanks for reading and I’ll see you here next week. I’ll know if you aren’t here.
I always know.
Categories: Mastering the Craft