In a news item, you tell someone what happened, plain and simple. He, or she (who), did this (what), here (where), at this time (when), because of this (why), in this way (how).
Easy-Peasy, don’t you think? Could do it in my sleep and so could you.
Now transfer these stringent cut and dried non-fiction principles directly into fiction writing. No longer Easy-Peasy. Trust me. While it’s necessary to tell a piece of news, it’s essential to show a work of fiction. The fiction reader needs to ‘see’ the characters and ‘watch’ what they do. In addition, the characters themselves must have been provided with definite reasons to do what it is they do.
Lengthy expositions of information will not keep readers interested. I know this because going over some of the long, drawn out information dumps in my own early attempts at fiction soon had my eyes glazing over and my fingers itching to rapidly turn the page. Not to necessarily find out what happened next, more to find out when something actually would happen, period.
Need further proof? It never failed, even the dog would fall asleep soon after I started to read a story of mine out loud.
So what’s the best way to accomplish all of this necessary, no vital, showing to keep readers happily, and swiftly, turning pages? As I’ve finally learned, dialogue sprinkled with action engages the reader and keeps them reading. Not knock down drag out shoot ‘em up action either. Unless, of course that fits the tone of the story. More subtle happenings within the dialogue will suffice. A mannerism or inflection in tone. Movement from one place to another.
A case in point is a scene from my soon to be finished work in progress, Bound by Duty. The first draft of one section was a long, drawn out yawner that needed major revision.
Vince rolled up his sleeves, blew out a sharp breath, and sat forward at his desk. Like it or not, this was going to be one hell of a long night. Same as usual when the details of an unsolved case stuck in his craw. The accident reconstruction geeks took their own sweet time to file a report. He couldn’t begin to count the number of times he’d reached for the phone to call them then pulled back.
Why frustrate myself more than I already am?
No sense calling to speed them up. They’d probably relegate his case to the bottom on the stack just for spite.
Don’t focus on what you don’t know, concentrate on what you do.
He opened the file folder that contained a variety of photos from the crash site. One car in the ditch of a rarely traveled country road is burned beyond recognition. Body inside suffered a similar fate. So what did he have? What did that leave him with? Their victim driving around an area he may or may not be familiar with, got lost or disoriented and crashed his car into the ditch after which it immediately burst into flames.
Chin down, he massaged tense fingers across his forehead. None of which made any damned sense. Don’t focus on what you don’t know, concentrate on what you do.
Out of the way crash site, ignited vehicle, body inside. The three pieces of evidence, the only three pieces of evidence, kept running through his mind like some kind of macabre carousel. Crash site, vehicle, body. Pretty much summed it up, but something just simply did not add up. What the hell am I missing?
He slammed the file folder closed and gave it a sideways shove to skitter across his desk with a flap and a flutter. Until it finally came to a stop beside a pile of many more just like it.
The next attempt, I think, is a whole lot easier to get into. Or not. Only a reader can decide.
Vince rolled up his sleeves, blew out a sharp breath, and sat forward at his desk. Forearms rested on its top, he balled both hands into fists. Like it or not, this was shaping up to be one hell of a long night. Same as usual when the details of an unsolved case stuck in his craw.
Don’t focus on what you don’t know, concentrate on what you do.
Fingers un-flexed, he opened the file folder that contained a variety of photos from the crash site he laid out in front of him.
“Hey, Detective. I didn’t know anyone from the day shift was still here.”
“Just me, I guess.” Vince glanced up at the uniformed officer who stood in the doorway.
In addition to the Sergeant in charge, one of two rookies working the dispatch night shift. He’d met the kid before but didn’t recall his name.
“What are you working on?”
Vince tapped the pictures. “Going over evidence on a case that has me bugged. A crash and burn out on rural 99.”
“What happened?” Coming forward, he craned his neck for a better view of the upside down photos. “Looks bad.”
A name plate on his shirt read Arnold M. Matthews! That was the kid’s name. Matthews. He’d solved that case easily enough. Now to tackle this other.
“One car sort of in the ditch of a rarely traveled country road bursts into flames.”
“What do the accident reconstruction people say?” Setting down the coffee cup he’d come in with, he picked up a side-view snapshot of the burned out vehicle. Body removed.
“Nothing yet. Those geeks always take their own sweet time to file a report.” He couldn’t begin to count the number of times that day had he made a move to pick up his phone then pulled back. Why frustrate myself more than I already am? “No sense calling to speed them up. They’d probably relegate his case to the bottom on the stack just to spite me.”
“Must have been quite the explosion on impact.”
Vince continued to study the shots. “That’s just it. There’s no evidence of any impact. No obstacle on the scene the vehicle might have come in contact with.”
“Can it happen like that?”
“Appears it did.”
Although Vince had never heard that exact term used in the course of an active investigation he glanced up to nod ready agreement. “You got that right.”
“Best of luck getting it solved.” The kid retrieved his cup then backed out of the doorway and disappeared down the hallway.
“Yeah. Thanks.” I’m going to need it.
Chin down he massaged tense fingers across his forehead. So what did he have so far? Someone driving around the area got lost or disoriented and ran his car off the road that immediately burst into flames.
None of which made any damned sense. Don’t focus on what you don’t know, concentrate on what you do.
“Which is not a whole hell of a lot.”
He slammed the file folder closed and gave it a sideways shove to skitter across his desk with a flap and flutter. It finally came to a stop beside a pile of many more just like it.
So what do you think? Can you relate?
That’s all I have. No promo and buy link for a new release because, as I mentioned this is a work in progress. One of four books in a series that, along with one of its partners, Deceived by Trust, will soon make the rounds of the publishing world to find a home.
Oh, okay, here’s a short, short tease.
Brothers in Blue – the dropout, the straight arrow, the movie star and the maverick – the vow they made to serve and protect begins with their own.
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