Have you ever opened a book or a story and felt that strong rush of excitement as you wondered what you would find inside? I sure hope so, or writing probably isn’t the right vocation or hobby for you! 😉 All teasing aside, I’m sure we’ve all had those moments, only to walk away with a sense of disappointment. This can stem from a number of different problems, but one thing gets me every time . . . *que dramatic music* The Skelator Syndome.
Writers conjure an exciting story or idea, and the need to tell it consumes them. They become eager to get it out there, get it told, or even just get to the exciting parts. (After all, set up and development can be quite boring to us to write when we know all of the exciting things waiting just around the bend.) It’s common, especially for new and inexperienced writers, to rush. Even seasoned vets often find themselves eager to race along to the good bits-or just get things finished. We’ve all done it . . . admit it.
The results can wreak havoc, even beneath the most skillful of pens. Let’s take a look at the areas affected by what I lovingly call “Skelator Syndrome.”
Character Development: Writing and acting are not so very different from each other. In order to reach your audience and hold them in your thrall, you have to become your character. Think as they do, feel their emotions, and most importantly convey these to your audience through a series of thoughts, expressions, and physical gestures. The more you do this, the more your audience will believe. The more they believe, the more they connect. The deeper the connection they feel, the deeper the interest. Interest creates excitement, which leads to word of mouth . . . which leads to more people being exposed to your work.
Plot: In our haste, we sometimes skip over the true substance of the story. A story should be built around the plot points , not just presented in a matter-of-fact fashion. True, the story will still make sense that way, but the audience misses out on the real experience, the journey taken along the way. It’s more work to build around each event, and lead up to each new thing, but the effort is well worth it.
Brief example: Emma was very upset because her dog died. She cried and her parents felt sorry for her.
Yes, the reader gets it. But what is missing? Because Emma is not developed, her feelings unexplored in gesture or thought, it’s almost impossible to feel it.
Emma cradled Fluffy in her arms. She buried her face in the Scottie’s fur, but nothing could muffle her heartbroken sobs. Fluffy had been her best friend, her confidante, her pillow . . . even her garbage disposal when mom made something disgusting like carrots. How many times had he sat there under the table, his scratchy chin resting on her knee, waiting for the next bite? How many times had he sat at the window, waiting for her to come home? Tears streamed down her cheeks and pooled against her beloved pet’s body. Her chest tightened with raw anguish. Things would never be the same.
Her mother stood nearby, her face lined with sympathy. “Honey, it’s time to let go.”
With just a little more work, we not only learn that Emma lost her dog and is very upset, but we experience that upset through her eyes. The bond she had with her dog is shown and expressed, as well as her sorrow. We also see a bit of her mother’s pity. While this could be developed further, it offers a deeper experience and more than just mere bones for the audience to devour. It also added a touch of *gasp* drama!
Setting: Readers crave a visual experience. When you watch a movie or play, your eyes are not only focused on the characters, but drinking in their surroundings. Your audience cannot see the movie you have playing in your head as you write. The only way they can see what you see is if you share it with them. It’s not enough to merely say it was a dark road. People will want to know if it is a dark road in the country or in the city. Are there crickets chirping nearby and trees rustling, or sirens and traffic? Is it hot or cold? Does the smell of autumn leaves linger in the air or cloying fumes from nearby factories? If they are in a house, is it old or new? Hardwood or carpet? Fresh smells or stink? Just throwing in a few touches and hints here and there will go a long way in satisfying the curiosity and cravings your readers harbor.
Pacing: Skip over the meat of any story and you’re bound to hear the pacing was too fast. If you think about the above examples I gave, you’ll see how entire stories can develop from a mere line or two. However, a mere few lines is not going to please anyone. This is why writing flash and micro fiction is a difficult challenge!
Style and Voice: If frustrated audiences don’t tug at your conscience, perhaps this segment will. Without meat added to story and sentence structure, the writer themselves misses out on a chance to shine. It is our words, our unique vision of the story we tell, that adds flair and sets it apart from the other tales out there. The tone you set and the words you choose define your story. They are what distinguish “writing” from, well . . . writing. There’s stories and there’s “See Spot Run.” Which, by the way, is fine—if you are writing for children. 😉
So, there you have it. Giving minimum details and rushing or skimming over events and emotions does not just afflict one area of your story. It pulls pieces and parts out of the entire element until only the bare bones are left. Skeletons are interesting if they happen to be in a closet, but in writing—not so much.
~Best wishes and happy haunting!~