Writer’s rambles: Some thoughts about thoughts

Another gem gathered from my recent audiobook binge. I recently re-listened to the finale of a series I’d devoured thoroughly on first reading. I’d heard clips of the author’s other series, so I knew I could sit and listen to Phil Gigante read for a few hours, regardless of the subject (not to mention, I’m terrible about never remembering how a series ends, so I was curious to hear it all again).

While overall, I wasn’t disappointed, a singular moment stood out to me with such force that I’m still rambling about it over a week later.

The Fever series relies heavily on the MC’s internal processes A LOT, and while I usually love that sort of thing, there was a section where she rambled on for a good five minutes of listening time about how much Valentine’s day had always sucked in her childhood. Relatable? Sure. Relevant? Technically, as it was Valentine’s day present time. Readable? Not so much. I’m always wary of “speed bumps” in my writing, places where things slow down for no good reason, and this was one in a big, big way. I spent most of the rest of the chapter waiting to see why we’d taken that little trip down memory lane–scene after scene that had NOTHING to do with Mac being thrown up on in kindergarten. When she finally did get a Valentine’s kiss, it was so removed from the original meanderings, I had forgotten it was V-day in the first place.

Now, I know a flat character is a boring character, and weaving in little details is a good thing. And again, it’s usually supremely well executed in this series. And, further more, I hadn’t even noticed it my first read through.

But listening to Mac whine was almost painful. This is another case where hearing the chunk of text made it clear that it went on a little too long, and was too far removed from any further relevant scenes. While I can’t advocate reading your work aloud enough, I do get that it’s not always an option to read the entire body of your work. But in addition to speaking dialogue, I’d put this test to any significant internal monologue chunks as well. It’ll help spot check for relevance, overly lengthy bits, or pieces that info dump too much at once.

Plus, some characters just love to hear themselves talk. Can’t hurt to indulge a bit, no? (Seth, I’m looking at you buddy.)

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3 thoughts on “Writer’s rambles: Some thoughts about thoughts

  1. Reading the writing out-loud is one of those pieces of writer-advice that I do often listen to. I find myself mumbling the lines to myself when I’m working on a piece at home and catching all sorts of things to fix. The parts that provide the biggest stumbles are the ones that I end up reading the most.

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    • Cait and I read to each other a lot, too. In Asylum’s earliest stages, I’d have her read pretty much all of the dialogue with me, so I could get to know the characters better. We’d never written jointly to quite that degree, so there was a HUGE learning curve.

      I’m going to apply the monologue rule to Naj a lot going forward (and looking backward, of course). His character is soooooo often lost in thought, and I’m starting to worry…

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  2. Reading aloud is a great way to see if things are lagging or don’t make much sense. Don’t forget, however, that you can also ask your beta readers if a character is talking too much to themselves in their heads and not aloud, if anything makes the scene drag or if something is relevant. Even though, like you said, this piece could be argued that it was relevant, I’m not sure that it was, especially if it went on too long. (And whining is painful. Sometimes it happens too often for my liking.)

    I once urged one of my friends to cut a whole paragraph in her writing. She had put it a whole descriptive paragraph of the scene where the characters were walking. One of the characters asked a question and then this whole descriptive paragraph came in out of no where before the other character answered. I urged her to put it somewhere else, since it was relevant, and since by the time I had finished the paragraph, I had completely forgotten what the characters were talking about. :-p

    (Hee-hee. Seth.) 🙂

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