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Architectural Writing, a Practical Guide

Writing can be a daunting task. People who use architectural or highly structured writing styles can learn to overcome many of these hurdles at a method level. If you have always dreamed of writing a novel, or short story, but haven't known where to begin, this page is for you!

If you find this useful, subscribe here for the upcoming detailed second half, and other series on dialogue, conflict and more!

How to Write Part 1: Ideas

Before you can write a book, you need an idea. I tend to write inside of fantasy and science fiction to varying degrees. Adjacent fields like horror fantasy, urban fantasy, science fantasy, magical realism, are all subgenres that are near afield. When I come up with my ideas, sometimes they are for worlds. Whole monster sized nuggets that land and I need to dissect them. Other times they are characters, abilities, magical structures, themes, story lines, plots and small things.

Ideas come in many forms. The first question and the first task for how to write, is what to do with these ideas?

  1. Capture your ideas.

Different people have different ways of doing this. Some people carry around a notepad. Find something which can fit in your pocket easily so you can scribble down the idea any time. Most people I know now use their phones. I use the Google Keep Notes application, which lets me create topics and bullet points in the app, and easily lets me do so by verbalization not tapping out the words, so it is even faster. Whatever you do, have the app on the front screen, ready to go at a moment’s notice.

Do not assume you will remember the idea later. You won’t always.

   2. Tell yourself why the idea is good.

It is important when you record the idea that you record WHY the idea is good to you. Where do you want to go with it? For example, if you think of magic system XYZ, something special and new, why was that interesting to you? Do you have a related idea for the kind of governments or cultures which would arise around it? Write those down with it.

If you have a science fiction story with a very specific moral you want to have expressed, make a few notes about what setting character or situation you think will most likely fulfill that theme. Give yourself enough to work with that when you come back to the idea in an hour, a day or a week, you remember WHY you were so enamored with it.

   3. Test your ideas

Once you write down your idea the next step is to discover if the idea has staying power. Does it have enough there to build a book around? What else happens as a result of this idea. Let’s talk about a throw away example:

When you turn 20, you are brought to the doctor’s office where they administer a blood test which will tell you the method of your death. It will not tell you when, only how. It doesn’t matter how bizarre, the machine knows. Cancer, heart attack, bullet wound, gangrene, cocaine overdose, bat to the head, almond allergy, choking on a peanut… everything.

How much room is there here for a story. The answer is ridiculously infinite. Now this is not my idea. In fact, this is so broad two whole books of short stories (Machine of death. A MUST read.) have been written about this topic. Settings are different, ranging from Victorian to far future. Characters are as broad as humanity is broad. Impact is intense and wide-ranging changing and creating whole jobs.

This idea has legs. It can walk about and go a long way.

Here is the secret.

Almost every idea has legs.

Your idea has legs, I promise

Your idea has legs. It can be a whole story. Here is why I am certain of it. We live in a non-magical world, non-science fiction world, filled with stories worth telling every day. Remember what we talked about in the section on conflict scale. (Link to types of conflict here.) Villains don’t need to want to conquer a world. They can just be in the way of one person, and still be a villain.

Explore the ramifications of your idea. If the setting is realistic, focus on the ramifications to the protagonist, the antagonist and the small circle of friends involved in the incident or the plot line. If the idea is larger and more world wide reaching begin to consider the following ten ideas:

  • What is the impact to society at an interpersonal level?

  • What is the impact to society at a political level? Are entirely new government structures possible?

  • Would this change how families interact, or are made?

  • Would this change how an economy works? (For example, magic which creates things from nothing or values certain items creates new economies.)

  • Would this change the level of safety people have in the world by changing how much power one individual can wield?

  • Does this idea change how a person or persons might view their place in the world?

  • Does the idea (Which can be a theme) find itself as a common belief throughout society? Is it the opposite, and few would find they resonate with the theme but you believe they should?

  • Is this a completely new technological revolution that would generate untold changes to society?

  • Does this idea change how people communicate or the speed at which people communicate? So many cultural revolutions have occurred just because of the ability to communicate.

  • Does it change how education would need to be delivered to incorporate the idea into society?

 

These are just a handful of many questions which you can ask about how our idea might find its legs.


As you explore these and others write down all of your results, even ones which will be dead ends. Keep them because these are going to be the idea bucket we work with next time for the creation of possible scenes.

Churn an idea around for a week or two, see how many story relationships pop out of it. This is the nascent phase of any novel. The idea phase.

   4. Find new ideas

If the idea you come up with doesn’t have enough to it, or you decide you don’t like it enough, keep all of your ideas. Never throw them away, but begin working on new idea. Where to find new ideas?

The world is boundless. Talk to people. Read books. (Nonfiction included!) Travel. Listen. I mean really listen to how people speak, and what they speak about. Take in art, including visual, and auditory art. Music can do amazing things for the imagination.

 

Your ideas will always come, and your ideas will always have enough to them, if you give them time.

Always remember, writers write. So go spin out some ideas. Next time, part 2. How to start turning ideas into events.

How to Write Part 2: Ideas Into Scenes.

In the last section we discussed the source of writing, which were ideas. Today we are going to give the second step in the architectural writers’ process, which for me is fleshing ideas out into scenes.

First, I want to be clear a scene is an event or interaction in the book which can be as long or as short as you like. It can be a single thought you really want vocalized, a setting you really want described, or a character interaction you really want the audience to see. It can be the ramification of those things, or the build up to those things. Don’t make the jump to “scene means chapter.” It can be much shorter than that. Let’s take an example:

Scenes you can write

Idea: This is a fantasy world where levitation is a common magical ability which is held by more than 30 percent of the population. In the air you can “fly,” as fast as you can walk.

In part one we discussed the questions to ask yourself when figuring out the ramifications of ideas. For this idea we will answer each one in turn:

-              What is the impact to society at an interpersonal level? People who can’t fly would be considered lesser individuals, called the “Grounded.” Being called grounded is an insult. Having dirt on your shoes would be low class. Can the ability be lost with senility, injury, etc.? How would they be treated differently? How would they emotionally react to the loss?

-              What is the impact to society at a political level? Are entirely new government structures possible? Government structures may not be changed but maybe the government offices never have entry available at the ground level. Only levitators can reach the doors, so only a levitating person can run for office. Or would it be like Renaissance Venice where there was a dank crowded undercity for the underprivileged in which only the powerful elite got to see the light of higher ground and were better protected from the plague and other diseases of overcrowding and owned boats giving them access to areas inaccessible by the grounded?

-              Would this change how families interact, or are made? I would make levitation heritable, so families that have the power keep the power among themselves, stratifying society. This could be the opposite, where levitation is random, and therefore class is very malleable from generation to generation creating some social fluidity.

-              Would this change how an economy works? For example, magic which creates things from nothing or values certain items creates new economies. How you view people would be different. Maybe cloaks and clothing and boots would have decorations on their underside to show off the sun going through cloth like a rainbow. A new industry for backlighting of clothing had developed.

-              Would this change the level of safety people have in the world by changing how much power one individual can wield? Absolutely, because the 1/3 could be inherently safer from the 2/3 by living in inaccessible places.

Etc. Each of these can be used to create a scene.

Take the example wherein those who cannot levitate are considered lesser, and called "grounded." I don’t want to just tell the readers that the people who can’t levitate are grounded. I know I want a scene or an event which conveys this information. I will now call into existence two characters, where I have one being made fun of by a ringleader of adolescents for not being able to levitate. The insulted is being circled from above by levitators who are throwing things or spitting on them.

I CAN go further with this scene but I don’t need to. This scene will show the reader there is a class stratification, which is higher and lower and how they both view themselves. None of the characters need to be main characters. We can have the protagonist be involved, or we can have the protagonist witness the scene. One being the hero’s journey's starting point the other being the protagonist as a “save the kitten,” moment.

We could come up with more scenes from this to also drive the point home. Each one of the “scenes,” is a nucleation point around which characters and interactions begin to get formed.

Let’s do another one:

-              Assume levitation is heritable, so families that have the ability keep the power among themselves, stratifying society.

Levitation is heritable, but it is a recessive gene, which can hide in the family tree, or sometimes NOT express. Several scenes come to mind. First, individuals with levitation begin to show their skill around puberty when it emerges. While the idea of babies levitating around as infants is fun, I’ll skip that idea here for now.

You could have scene A, where the character is displaying their powers despite nobody in their family having displayed them before. In a conversation between the parents about the child they could be flinging accusations of who cheated on who? Or maybe they have a legend that great grandma could fly, and here is the evidence. They could be thrilled that this has happened, as the ability to move class is easy if you can fly. Or they could be unhappy because new levitation families are more heavily scrutinized.

Scene B could be the opposite. A rich or powerful levitation family has a child who has passed puberty and is not demonstrating any skill yet. The conversation could circle again on infidelity, or loss of familial power, or passing over the child to the next born because it is what is best for the family interests.

The perspective can be from the parents or the child overhearing the parents making for very different scenes.

Do this for each idea, and what you will have is a fairly large collection of scenes. Be organized about your activity. Write them down distinctly in a way that you can organize them later, which we will come back to. There is no rush on this step. Many authors will take literally months writing out these events and occurrences. You do not have to have them all be self-consistent, that comes later. Write down every fleshed-out idea in as much detail as you need to ensure that a future version of you, three weeks or three months from now will understand what present you intends.

For each of your ideas try to answer the ten questions posed with no less than 3 or 4 scenes that will help to drive home this information. Not only will this help you later with having a lot of material, it will help you show, not tell, because you created a scene to convey the information instead of data dumping.

Writers write, but sometimes that looks like brainstorming. So go get those ideas transformed into events and scenes.

Next: Organization of scenes: Keeping and discarding ideas. Order of ideas. Perspectives. And building characters into the scenes.

For more on this series or other series on dialogue, how not to annoy your readers and more subscribe here

How to Write Part 3: Building Character

Topics coming up: Keeping and back burner scenes. Plots threads. Rounding out the characters.

Today: Building character(s).

By starting with scenes built from our ideas pile we already have characters started because almost all scenes will be written from someone’s perspective. While some scenes may be without characters in a third person omniscient sense, even that omniscient narrator has a clear presence and voice.

As we begin to build characters we should start with the answer to a few questions.

  1. Who should exist in a world with the rules and ideas I am making? Focus here perhaps on new roles, new titles, new jobs, or activities that your magic or your scenarios must give rise to.

  2. Would the rules and world give birth to people who are completely different than the world I am in? While 1, may have overlap with our world, work hard to find something that doesn't exist in any way in the real world for fantasy and science fiction. 

  3. Would the rules of the world preclude the existence of certain roles job, titles or things which exist in our world all the time? 

  4. What kind of protagonist do I want to have?

  5. What kind of antagonist do I want to have, if any?

  6. What are the relationships between the characters in the tale?

  7. Who created these people? Meaning literally who were their parents? Who were their influential friends and teachers? Who made them the person they are today?

  8. How do the unique features of my world create unique people?

  9. What is the character’s defining moment? What instant in their life made them do the things they do?

  10. What will be their arc?

 

These questions have some redundancy, but that is because when we come at the same questions from different perspectives it can help us create more characters.

When you are first answering these and other questions you may come up with to establish characters you do not need to answer all of them for the same character at the same time. There are also other very important questions like, what do they value? What is their goal? What is their motivation?

We will come to these later. This first exercise, much like the scene building exercise is to start you on the journey. Characters do not have to be preestablished as a main character, or as secondary or tertiary. Two different characters can merge into one person later. We are looking for motivations, traits and people who would fill this world.

Let’s go back to the world we established last time where we have levitation as an established magic, which is common and also results in separate classes for those who are above (levitators) and those who are below (grounded). Here are some ideas.

Makers of things:

Maybe it would be interesting to explore where a ladder maker lands in a world like this. Or a rope maker. People who give physical access for those who cannot levitate, may be viewed differently in this society. Would they be good or bad? A shopkeeper may need special permission to sell items that enable people to climb. This gives me two characters in an answer to “2)    Would the rules and world give birth to people who are completely different than the world I am in?”

  • A shopkeeper who has a license to sell ladders and ropes and grapple hooks etc. for access to higher levels. He is tired of the government inspecting his stock, asking who he sold goods to, and the background checks he ran on them first.

  • A rope maker, who makes the material for multiple purposes such as ship building, and labor. As the material can also be used for creating climbing equipment, his shop is audited daily to ensure the material in and sales out is not being sent off to parts unknown. He is annoyed but he accepts it because he has two children he needs to feed.

One of these examples even popped into my head with a few motivations and world desires in the form of children.

Let’s answer a few more.

  1. What kind of protagonist do I want to have?

  2. What kind of antagonist do I want to have, if any?

 

Let’s flip the standard narrative. People expect the protagonist to be the person who wants to give the ability to climb a social ladder and literal ladder to the underdog. What if we had it the other way around?

  • A character who believes that the best thing for the “grounded,” is to stay grounded. This individual tried to climb the social ladder and found as soon as you are a person who is standing equal to those who can levitate it is a cut throat world, filled with backstabbing, where they lost all of their friends and they lost their fortune. On returning to the world of the grounded, they were happier. (Notice this is a lot of assumed backstory here.) They just want their children to see the value in the world they already have, and how irrelevant the actions of the rich and powerful actual are compared to the simple things in life.

  • A character who wants to be a part of the elevated society so badly they would do anything to obtain it, including lose friends, lose family, and backstab literally and figuratively to have it. They would chase rumors of magic to give the ability to those who don’t have it, to the exclusion of all else.

 

First thing to notice is what we didn’t say. We don’t care yet about gender. What they look like. We assume a little about the relationship between these two, but it could be reversed with a child trying to convince a parent their quest for power is pointless too. We didn’t say what fully motivated them. Goals are power, or prestige but we never said why. Not yet. Those can come in the rounding out phase.

Let’s answer one more.

How do the unique features of my world create unique people?

 

  • A constable, or police officer, who can levitate but who’s parents could not. His role is to keep the “grounded,” in line, but he has a great deal of sympathy for them. He will bend the rules to the breaking point to cut them slack, but he will never break the rules because he believes life without law is pointless, and change should come from within the system.

  • (If this is Science Fiction not fantasy) A rogue geneticist who is able to do a gene graft to give levitation ability to people, who feels the system is so corrupt it is the scientific community’s responsibility to set free those who cannot fly and cast down those who can.

 

The wording gives some implication of who is a good guy and who is a bad guy here in this pair but it need not be that way. In this first pass nothing is off the table. Create as many characters as you can, and as many people as you want. Don’t worry yet if things contradict one another, or if some of your people bleed over into creating new ideas or new scenes. We are still in brainstorming here.

 

One of the things about being an architectural writer is a frontloaded writing style. We spend more time in the creation phase and storming phase than say a garden writer who may sit down and immediately get pen to paper. Remember this exercise’s point is to explore how there is a mechanic by which anyone can learn to write.

 

Go forth, create some characters, and some interesting people that someone else would want to know more about.

How to Write Part 4: Plot Threads

Defined simply by Webster as “the plan or main story,” we will discuss today, plots and subplots. First let’s retread some ground that we have already walked. We started from ideas about a world that can be as similar to or as different from the world we live in as we want. We have scenes. These are things we know we want to have happen. We have characters, the people who drive the scenes, or perhaps have the scenes happen to them.

These are the most basic building blocks of a story. We need them in some real sense to begin to build plot. There are some people who may conceive of the plot first, and then decide who it happens to and the character which would fill it. As we said when this started there are as many valid ways to write as there are writers. I find it a more foolproof, perhaps less inventive way, (that’s a little harsh) to go in this order.  

Here is why: There is a formula you can now follow to build main plots and secondary plots from what you already have, even if you didn’t already have a story in mind.

Create two lists of all the characters you already have. Something where you can draw lines between the lists i a direction manner such that A feel X about B and B feels Y about C etc. I’ll wait…

For each of these you are going to create a line from character A to character B, C, D, etc. In each case you are going to answer all of the following questions. Assume for the time being at some point in the story each of them will encounter one another, though this doesn’t have to be the case in draft. In other words, work to leave no section blank.

  1. Character A wants to achieve goal ABC.

  2. Character A feels/would feel XYZ about B, because ABC.

  3. Event/Scene XYZ could happen between character A and B.

  4. Event/Scene XYZ could be perpetrated on character A by B.

  5. Character A would want to stop character B from achieving XYZ?

 

This is not a short exercise. This is developing the relationship web of your story. Every one of these single strands is a miniature plot. Let’s take one example in the same hypothetical world with levitation we have been working in.

Remember we are filling a version of “Character A feels/would feel XYZ about B because ABC.”

  • The crown princess wants to feel empowered.

  • The crown prince of Eastern Vale does not like the crown princess of Highwinds, because he is being forced to marry the crown princess who does not have the ability to levitate.  

  • The princess argues with her mother about gaining the ability to levitate in her generation, even though her mother wants it to come gradually as it always has through breeding and her eventual grandchildren, not new scientific programs to tamper with already living people.

  • The princess drugs her mother, to escape one night into the dark to seek out the help of a shady back-alley virus dealer. He gives her a virus which will change her DNA to allow her to levitate after all. (Her mother is accidently sent into a coma from this drugging?)

  • The princess’s father has assigned the royal guard to prevent her from sneaking out. (And perhaps does not know this guard has a terrible infatuation with her?)

 

This is now a basic plot outline. This is the broad brushstroke of a story’s beginning. What fell out of this is subplots. Her mother is now ill, and needs help. There is a secondary love interest in the captain of the guard who wants to keep the princess safe while obeying her father. The prince may develop feelings rightly or wrongly once he sees she can levitate too. She may lose the ability later, after the first resolution.

Once you build these story lines between each character, you have many such stories you can pursue. You will soon have to pick which one of them is most interesting to you, and which you think will be most interesting to you readers. Don’t worry if they are self-contradictory. Just like your ideas could be contradicting, so too your science could be contradicting and your plots. You don’t have to make any final decisions. That comes soon, but not yet.

This is a very long process, and involves a lot of creative effort. Don’t short change this step even if it does take you weeks. Don’t worry that this might generate whole new scenes or whole new events and ideas you want to see exist in the world. The process is supposed to be iterative.

Go get web building your character interactions, it’s the next step toward writing.

How to Write Part 5: Theme

the many themes of literature

Theme or first cuts?

I debated which order is considered “correct,” to talk about these in if we are trying to be formulaic. Theme, or cutting room floor. The reality for me is that these happen at the same time. They are two sides of one coin. Just like we have said before, there is no correct process of writing, it is about what works for you. This series is trying to teach the essentials of how we go about generating a formula by which anyone can be creative.

I have decided the first thing to really consider is theme, because theme is what tells me which things to cut. Let’s briefly recap. By this point you will have characters, their interactions with one another, how they feel about one another, specific scenes you want to have take place and fun world building settings that will show your reader all the gifts of your imagination. The problem is that some of them will be too long. Some will be out in the corner, doing their own thing, not really tied to a main plot at all. Some will contradict each other, because we didn’t say everything had to be consistent.

The final arbiter of what stays and what goes will be the theme.

Theme: By Miriam Webster:

  • a subject or topic of discourse or of artistic representation

  • a specific and distinctive quality, characteristic, or concern

 

In other words, why are you telling this story? If someone had once sentence to say what it was about, what would they say? Plots and arcs, interactions and scenes all have to be building toward something. This is where MacGuffin becomes reason. It is entirely possible to tell the same tale with different morals depending on which characters we anchor the story to, which perspectives we let the reader get close to and ultimately, in the terms of conflict, who or what wins.

Let’s take the world we have been lightly building up in our examples. Levitation dictates position in society. That is easy enough. Next take the characters and some of the relationships we picked last time, like a prince and princess who are being requested to marry by their parents. We said that for example maybe she would rather get levitation now, not help her children, from back-alley deals, and he doesn’t want to marry a woman who is beneath his station. If we anchor to her, and her story perhaps we have the heroine’s journey of gaining powers and breaking out of a mold of her society to become something better. If we anchor to his perhaps, we have a story about his journey of overcoming prejudice about a lower caste. Maybe you change the ending, and terrible things happen to her, and the moral becomes about patience in generation-to-generation growth.

These are very different themes, even though they are the same basic story.

If we anchor to the parents, we could tell a story about how one generation relates to another, and how progress through society is, or is not made, depending on the ending.

Maybe we anchor to the character who gives her the powers. The prince and princess are just tertiary players in this tale, and it is about the grunts who work and slave away at the bottom who feel the repercussions of the royalty’s actions. Then perhaps we are telling a story about underdogs and how to perform actions of political dissent for better or worse, depending on how we end the tale.

Before you can begin to think about what you keep and what you throw away you need to know why you want to write the story. Make no mistake, that artists are more powerful than any politician, and more minds have been changed by works of fiction than all the speeches ever made from a podium. You are telling a story for a reason, and you need to articulate it so that you know what serves that story and what doesn’t.

That could take time. Here are a few brief pieces of advice.

  • Have only one theme.

When there are too many themes a book can become heavy handed with them, trying to preach to a reader, and nobody enjoys that, even when they agree with the sermon. Additionally, it can get very busy. When you become a master writer, perhaps consider more, but to start keep it simple and keep one theme.

  • If you have never written a book before write a theme you agree with.

Exploring the mind of characters and belief structures you are opposed to is fun, enlightening and very difficult. When writing a book there is already so much to do, and pull together. The key to starting out in this process is to keep the first few themes something that you believe in.

  • Take your time.

Trial each theme against the scenes you have, and see which ones fit. You may decide you have a theme that you do not have enough scenes to support. That is ok, you can always do this entire process iteratively or front to back multiple times with more understanding of your end goal each time.

Finally, once you think you know your theme sort the scenes and interactions you have outline before this point into a pile that belong with the theme, and those that don’t. Technically this grouping is going to be your first cutting room floor mega cut. Don’t throw anything away. It is time in our next chat to start considering that we need to cut and par down scenes, characters and interactions to create a cohesive story, plot and satisfying collection of arcs.

Next time: The cutting room floor.

How to write Part 6: The Cutting Room Floor

The time has come to kill your precious work. You have spent this time generating ideas for a world you want to write in. You have created characters who embody these scenes, and plot threads between all these characters. Then you figured out which theme you want your world to embody. Now the time has come to remove those things which do not fit.

What to cut from your novel?

There are multiple reasons scenes, characters and plots may not make it into the final piece, and all of them should be considered here and now. Let’s take them one at a time:

Characters:

There is no hard rule about how many characters a book can have. In part because there is no rule about how big a book is. Books from different genres are different sizes on average, but no matter how much we love some of our people and creations, they don’t all get to play in one book at the same time.

  • Is this character central to the story? The protagonist, antagonist or a direct secondary character to them? If yes, they usually get to stay.

  • Is the character only interesting, but does not add to the core theme I want to convey and the main plot I want to drive? They might get pushed to the side.

  • Can I get away with showing them less, perhaps only mentioning them in a brief paragraph to give the world an incompletely seen but implied depth?

 

Plots:

When a book has too many plots it becomes onerous to be sure we have closed them all up, and to be sure we have woven them into one another. If we spend too long away from one story, readers can forget what we were doing, stop caring, or just find the length between the different tales like reading two books at once. Like characters, there are no rules about the total number of plots, but here are some useful questions to start with:

  • Is this the main plot? If yes, keep it.

  • Is this a plot that directly impacts story arcs of my main characters? If it is only around tertiary characters, or even only around secondary players, it might be on the block.

  • Does this plot have a redundancy with another plot? For example, two romance subplots might be confusing, or even too much.

  • Does this plot segue or directly influence the main plot thread, and therefore they add to one another? If not, you may want to consider dropping it.

 

Theme:

Not every piece of a book must contribute unequivocally to the theme. Some pieces can just be fun and world building. You can even have two themes, but as recommended, until you get experienced at this, contemplate keeping just one theme. At a minimum the following questions must be considered.

  • Does the character, plot, scene or event contradict the theme/s you want to convey? If it does, they must go. You can’t send mixed messages. Note, this is different than having characters who are in opposition to the theme to be later thwarted, THAT is fine, we are saying a thematic resolution thread in a book which is exactly the opposite to what you are trying to say can be very confusing and jarring.

  • If the piece on the chopping block is from a secondary theme, is that theme closely related to the first theme? Do they compliment one another?

 

Scenes:

Scenes are the backbone of a story. We move from scene to scene to carry the entire text along. But many things will happen that the reader doesn’t get the details on, and happen off screen so to speak. Be careful you do not move the most important, vital moments of characters off screen. Readers will feel like they are missing out! At the same time, if a scene doesn’t serve the main characters, or main plots, or a secondary character which is very related to the main, it is likely that it has to go.

  • Is the scene moving the main plot? If yes keep it.

  • Does this scene forward a primary or secondary character’s story arc? If yes, probably keep it.

  • Is the scene for worldbuilding purposes only? It may not be enough. Find a way to merge this with another scene to do two things at once.

  • Does the status quo of the story from beginning to end of this scene find itself unchanged? (Data dumps are notorious for this.) If so, it is time to go, the scene doesn’t do enough to drive something forward.

  • Does this scene contradict another scene? Cut it.

  • Does the scene offer the exact same information as other parts of your story but from a different point of view? Consider these carefully. I have seen this done VERY well, but more often this is boring, as the reader already knows the outcome.

 

Nobody but you knows the story you want to tell, and why. But the reality we must embrace is that everything can’t make it into one book. Never throw away the parts you don’t keep, they are fodder for other tales. Remember you have a finite space and an infinite world in your head you have to convey to the reader. Remember your genre, the assumptions the reader will make, and what they take unconsciously with them into the book. Use them for shorthand when you can, or buck those trends when you want to, but be strict in your cuts to create a well-shaped story.

It is better to tell less very well, than to tell more poorly.

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