4 Ways to Fix the Boring Parts

Alfred Hitchcock once said, “Drama is life with the dull parts cut out of it.” Is that the secret to good fiction writing? Can it be that simple?

Let’s say you’re looking over the story you just finished writing and you see a section where the action really drags. While writing, it seemed necessary to describe a scene fully or explain a character’s backstory so later plot actions would make sense. Now you’re torn. Should you follow Hitchcock’s advice and just cut that section, or leave it in at the risk of boring your readers?

I recommend using the following process to deal with boring sections of your story:

  1. No matter what the nature of boring part, and no matter what attribute makes it boring, ask if you really need it at all. If readers can still follow the plot or identify with the characters without that part, or if it’s some superfluous tangent, then obey Alfred and cut it out. (Okay, you can save the text in some ‘deleted darlings’ file for use in a different story if you want, but cut it out of this one.)
  2. If the boring part of your story feels like the action is dragging and it could use some interesting twist, see author Steve Parolini’s entertaining post. He’ll delight you with 12 plot twists you can use. As you read them, you’ll realize there are many more; the dozen he gives you may suggest others that will fit your story better. Note: these twists may well send your story in unplanned (but definitely unboring) directions.
  3. If the boring part is a setting depiction, or a description of character backstory, or a detailed explanation of some aspect of the story, it’s possible you really do need to convey that information somehow. That part, though currently boring, is necessary for the reader to enjoy or understand the story. For this situation, turn to this post by mooderino, (which also has a wonderfully fitting image), who provides three options for that boring part:
    1. Move it later. Don’t put it at the beginning, but save it for a point when the reader is hooked on the story and the protagonist.
    2. Move it to a scene when that character is alone. The reader isn’t expecting much action in these scenes, and the reader is catching her breath from a previous action scene.
    3. Split it up and sprinkle it around. Perhaps you can insert pieces of the information into more interesting scenes, thus allowing those details to emerge as the story moves along.
  4. If none of the preceding steps really work for you; if that boring part reveals something important about the plot, character, or setting; then take the risk and leave it right where it is. That’s the advice of author Richard Riley in this post. You might just want to edit that boring part to put more energy in the words, but other than that, just leave it.

If this has helped you deal with a boring section of your story, leave a comment, but be careful not to wake up—

Poseidon’s Scribe

Do You Know the MacGuffin Man?

What is a MacGuffin, do you want one in your story, and if so, how do you incorporate one? Read on to find out about this literary term.

MacGuffinSimply put, a MacGuffin is the protagonist’s goal. It can also be the goal of the antagonist as well. Perhaps they’re both pursuing it, or seeking to prevent the other from having it. It can be a tangible object, or an abstract idea.

Examples of MacGuffins in literature and film include the falcon figurine in Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon, the witch’s broomstick in the film “The Wizard of Oz,” and the Golden Fleece in Apollonius Rhodius’ epic poem “Argonautica.”

Some stories have more than one MacGuffin, and characters seek them in sequence, one after the other. This is common in fantasy stories and fantasy games. Multiple MacGuffins are termed plot coupons.

A character’s goal (the MacGuffin) is different from a character’s motivation. As author Starla Criser explains, a goal is what you want. A motivation is why you want it. We’re mostly talking about the goal here, but it’s important that you convey to the reader that your character has a good reason to pursue that MacGuffin.

There remains some confusion over the term MacGuffin. In the Wikipedia article, director Alfred Hitchcock seems to dismiss it as unimportant—“The audience don’t care.” Director George Lucas disagrees, saying viewers should care about the MacGuffin as much as they do the main characters.

Author Michael Kurland resolves this confusion well in his article about MacGuffins. He says it’s important for the writer to establish why the MacGuffin is vital to the character early in the story. Regardless of the reader’s actual feelings about the MacGuffin, it’s vital that the reader understand its importance to the character. After that point, writers should emphasize the plot and the characters to give life and vitality to the story, and the MacGuffin can fade in significance.

The Wikipedia article states that the protagonist’s pursuit of the MacGuffin often has little or no explanation. I can understand little explanation, but none? The reader has to know the reason for the character’s hunt; otherwise, why should the reader care about the character at all?

Now you know the answer to the question I posed in the title of this blog post. Yes, you do know the MacGuffin Man. He lives in Literury Lane, of course! Address all complaints about bad puns to—

Poseidon’s Scribe

September 4, 2016Permalink