My dear friend and fellow author A.J. and I were talking this morning about my current editing process (I’m on my third edit so far!) and how much of my writing I’ve found pointless and have decided to cut out. These useless bits of information– aka fiction fluff–do nothing to move the story along. They’re just tedious pieces of nonsense that fly into the reader’s brain and make it hard to read. It feels a lot like this:
At least that’s my opinion (By the way, that’s a cotton mill, not snow).
Don’t get me wrong. Oftentimes a facial expression, a sigh, a movement, etc. can be essential to conveying the mood of the moment. What I’m talking about is stuff like this (yes, I actually had this in my novel):
I trace the letters with my finger distractedly. Suddenly hearing a sound in the trees I rip my eyes from the page, pulling my hand back as though bitten by the words. My fingers sting slightly; I open and close them as I listen. The call of a bird echoes through the wood, nothing more. Relaxing, I lower my hand to the page.
Now. In my mind, did that actually happen? Absolutely. Is it at all necessary to the story? Absolutely not. Of course, out of context you won’t realize how truly arbitrary it is, but I promise you: this doesn’t move the story along in any way. Not even a tiny bit. Fluff.
Some people love that kind of stuff. I do not. Really, I think it’s because above all I’m a storyteller. Though complex descriptions and step-by-step movements come easily to me, at the heart of what I love is the story and I want to convey it as well as I can. As I said to A.J. this morning:If it doesn’t move the story along, I chunk it. Nobody cares! It’s like when I’m telling a story in real life. I’m not like, “I went to the market. Then I touched this beautiful red apple. It had a bruise so I lifted my hand and moved on to the next apple. Then I fingered the stem of a wayward green apple. In the end they were all no good so I took my hands off of them and wiped my fingers on my pants.
“No. ‘I went to the store to get apples, but they were all bad.’ Boom. The End.”
(This conversation continued in an absolutely hilarious fashion. Read more of it on A.J.’s blog.)
The problem is that as writers, we see all this stuff happening. We witness every move our characters make, and by golly the world needs to know about it! But does that mean that everything they do is essential? No.
So the moral is this: If it doesn’t move the story along, move it on out.
You know what I think; now what do YOU think? Are you a fan of fiction fluff? Let me know in the comments below.
In Love and Christ,