Fight the Filler!

6:00 AM

I've been doing a lot of critiquing lately, and there's something I've noticed.

You can't comment on everything. So when I comment, I comment on what sticks out to me. There's a lot of good in a book, but I can only highlight so much of it. So when I'm highlighting the good stuff, I pick what really sticks out. What makes me squeal. 

Not every book is going to be all good. We all know this. And not every book is going to be all bad. We know this, too.

Some books will be half and half. There's a bunch of good stuff, and there's also a bunch of bad stuff.

And then some books, the majority of books I've found, tend to be about 20% ABSOLUTELY AMAZING, 40% this needs to be fixed, and 40% eh.

What's the "eh"? What's the stuff that doesn't stick out. The stuff we kind of gloss over.

Let's explore, shall we?



I like car rides.

(Stay with me. I promise this relates.)

I've always liked car rides. But in my experience, there are a lot of people who don't. I've been tailgated so many times that it's not even funny. I've been passed on the road, and I've seen cars zoom off well above the posted speed limit.

Why is that? Why do people rush about everywhere? Why don't they sit down and just ... enjoy the car ride?

I use car rides to pray. I use car rides to listen to music and really think about the words and what the song is saying. I use car rides to brainstorm ideas (since it's finally quiet). I use it to sing at the top of my lungs along to my favorite songs.

Why doesn't everyone appreciate car rides?

Because it's just a "step". It's transportation. The car ride itself is not what you're aiming for. What you're aiming for is the destination. A lot of people have only that in mind: I want to get home. When I get home I'll do this this and this. Or, I want to get to the store. When I do, I'll get this, this, and this.

The car ride itself is almost a nuisance. Because, for a lot of people, a car ride is just a car ride. Let's call it "filler".

Now you see where I'm going, yes? MWAHAHA.

There are things your character has to do. There are places your character has to go, things they have to see, in order for the story to flow right. But often times, the only reason a given scene might be in a book is because it needs to be there for the sake of flow. It has the sole purpose of getting your character from step 1 to step 2. That's it. That's its purpose.

And as a result, it's boring and flat. It doesn't stick out. It's easy to skim past.

How do we avoid that? How do we make every scene in our stories really matter? Not just there to fulfill the purpose of transitioning.

Can we even make every scene matter?

I am a firm believer that yes, you can. Every scene has the potential to matter. Every word in your story is precious.

Last year at the MYWW, I sat in a workshop class taught by Jonathan Friesen. He talked about how a story is made of moments. He defined a moment as a instant in time where something changes. A belief, a desire, a plan. Something in the character's world (and it doesn't have to be the MC) changes, for better or for worse.

That concept has stuck with me ever since. It has made me view my story differently, and brought emotional depth to my writing and my reading. I notice things in books now that I didn't before.

Emotional depth is not easy. Every now and then, I'll be writing along and realize I'm writing somethign really important. I had one of those (my own little moment, if you will) yesterday, when my characters were arguing. Leni, my MC, wants to steal something from the person she thinks cast the curse on their neighborhood. But Gunther, her friend and companion in breaking the curse, doesn't think Leni's suspect did it. At least, that's what he said.


I'm not claiming to have crafted an expert work here (#firstdrafting) but I was aware of something important happening while typing this. I stopped and took a screenshot, but I've been thinking about it ever since.

Why did this scene stick out? Why is this so important?

It's important because something changes. (In my book, this statement is even a bigger deal hehe but we'll stick with generalities.)

What changes?

Gunther changes. He acknowledges that no one is going to swoop in and save the day. The work isn't magically going to get done while he sits back in safety and watches. Gunther does want the curse to end, and he knows he can make a difference ... but he doesn't want to change it.

Now, he can't play pretend anymore. He can't lie to himself or Leni any longer. He's admitted it to the both of them.

Now, Gunther has to make a choice. To be the one to stand up and make a change, or to run to safety and let the curse rage on.

Not every moment in your story is going to be huge and meaningful. Your story is full of big moments, but it's also full of little moments.

The important thing is that your story is full of change. Big changes, little changes. Think about your life. How many changes, big and small, do you experience every day?

If you have a dull scene, or something that just feels flat to you, take advantage of it. Make it into a moment. Have that character reflect on what's been happening in the story. Sometimes the moments when not much is happening are the most meaningful to your story. There where your character has time to reflect, and make more choices about future actions they take.

Make your scenes matter.


I was feeling this topic, so I posted it. XP Next week I'll try to give a nice Nano Pep talk, and then hopefully eventually sometime in the next blue moon I'll get to that Workshop post ;P

What about you? Do you struggle with story filler? Do you see how you could add some meaning to it to make it a moment?

<3

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24 comments

  1. Wow, that snippet made me want to read more. That was amazing.
    Keeping every scene interesting can be very hard. But like you said, everything in life has meaning, so every scene should have a purpose. I'm going to try and apply that to my writing more. Thank you for the inspiration. :D

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    1. Ahhh thank you, Ivie! <3 It can seem overwhelming, but remember that change makes a moment. Big change makes bigger moments, and small change makes little moments. But moment are all moments, and they are beautiful.

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  2. Wonderful advice! Sometimes, especially in travelling scenes and the like, I tend to skip over details as I can think they're "boring". But if you can make the filler mean something, a moment of reflection, it has a purpose. You're absolutely right; each scene can matter. :D (Also, when do I get to read this story???)
    Great post! <3

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    1. Ugh TRAVEL SCENES ARE THE BANE OF MY EXISTENCE. I haven't written a book that really required them in a couple of years, but my NaNoWriMo book is going to require them ... I'm excited to try them again though after my newfound knowledge of filler weaponry! XP

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  3. THIS POST WAS SO AMAZING. "Filler" scenes are the bane of me, especially the "I just want to get home" feeling (though not in regards to car rides...I love those ;). I got some excellent feedback from a beta reader a couple months ago on this. If something doesn't change in the scene, what's the point of it? If everything is kept the same, why should the reader read this? Thinking about making every scene change the story really keeps me focused and motivated when writing.

    audrey caylin

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    1. Yassss ^^^ You right. You always sum up such genius thoughts in your comments and I love it <3

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  4. YEES LOVE THIS POST. <3 Such a great topic to address because I don't think I've ever seen a blog post written about this before! I've never thought of scenes in the sense of whether or not something changes, but I'll definitely try that during my editing. :D

    Ok but also I obviously haven't been on here in way too long because WHEEEN DID YOU REDO YOUR BLOG OH MY GOODNESS I LOVE IT

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    1. BAHAHAHA. It's pretty new! I just put it up with my wrap-up post :D I'm glad you like! It still feels so new and I'm getting used to it. And now that you mention it, I don't think I've ever read a post on filler either?? Like ... we should address this more?? YOU SHOULD GIVE YOUR OWN TWO CENTS ON FILLER cause you're a genius and smart human and I know you'd have some good thoughts to share *nods*

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  5. THIS IS SUCH A GREAT POST OH MY GOSH!!!

    First off, I totally just have to agree with you on the car rides thing. I've never really minded them all that much. They're a nice little break, in a way.

    And it's actually kind of crazy how important filler is. You can have so much development in those scenes, it's beautiful. I really enjoy writing it, honestly.

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    1. Thank you! <3 I love car riiiides :D And I knowwww right? When done right, the scenes that should be just "filler" can be some of the most powerful and impacting moments in your book.

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  6. YES. This is just perfect and I love how you tackled this topic! Also, I love Stan's new look!!

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  7. I really liked that snippet, wonderful post!

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  8. James Oliver7/22/17, 11:03 PM

    I LOVE THIS POST KAL;DJFASKDJFKLSFL! SO RELATABLE ON SO MANY LEVELS. Like everything about car rides and everything about writing. And that snippet *flails* I can't wait to read these characters!

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    1. Ahw, thank you! <3 I can't wait to share it with you!

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  9. This is WONDERFUL! I'm going to keep it in the forefront of my mind (every scene must change something in the story!) even more than I already do, thanks to this post! Thanks a million XD

    And BTW, I love your blog!!!! <3

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    1. I'm so glad this helped you! And i'm glad you like Stan! :D

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  10. Thanks for this post! I'm going to get back to editing next month, and this has motivated me to make sure that every scene matters. From the bottom of my heart - thank you!

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    1. Awwww I'm so happy to hear that, Julian! :)

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  11. Such a great post, Hannah! I've finished my 2nd draft, but this should definitely be something I look into in my third one...

    teensliveforjesus.blogspot.com

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    1. Ahhh congrats on finishing your second draft! That's such a huge accomplishment. *hands you coffee and chocolate*

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  12. I need to try a lot harder to eliminate fillers! :'}

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    1. Or just change them to mean more ;) Best wishes with your edits!

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