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September 25, 2013

In a story, you have a Point A and a Point B. These two points are payoff moments that send your story in a certain direction and rock your readers' worlds. They're the parts everyone will be talking about. As a writer, you feel especially proud about the development of these two points in your story. They came out perfectly. But what about the other stuff, the part of your story that got you from point A to point B?


Elmore Leonard famously called these the "boring parts," and he handled them by not handling them. He left them out of his story. Now, his genre, the crime novel, allowed for that kind of tactic. There isn't a lot of minutiae in crime novels. The tone calls for a fast pace that allows the readers to fill in a lot of the unsaid action. How a character gets from the elevator to the front door of his apartment isn't necessary to write unless something of note is revealed about the plot in that short trip. 


Even if you aren't a crime novelist, there's a lesson here: if you include minutiae, make it count. Be sure it reveals something about the characters, plot or setting. Personally, I don't object to the "boring parts" as long as they are written well. Those parts can help readers become immersed in the story. A good writer can sneak them in without the reader noticing. The more I know about how a character traverses a hallway, the greater the chance I may find myself walking down the hallway with him.


I understand I might be in the minority. We live in an abbreviated world where things are said in 140 characters and the number 8 is used to spell words like "gr8," so the "boring parts" of a novel may be relics of a bygone age of storytelling. Readers have a growing expectation for writers to get to the point. I think there can be a compromise: eliminate those parts if you find they're slowing your story down, but don't cut them for the sake of cutting them. Leave them in if that's what your writer's heart tells you.


How about you? How do you handle the "boring parts" of a novel?


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Richard Ridley is an award-winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.


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