Show/tell/thoughts/motivations

Jo Zebedee

Aliens vs Belfast.
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This might be a bit rambling because I am trying to grasp this and not sure where to go with it.

My books tend to the short end of the spectrum, despite having plots that could easily reach 100k. I think this is because sometimes I don't go deep enough into character's thoughts and I think it is either that I do too much show (though an agent rejected Inish this week as having too much telling) and bounce the thoughts from the action. I also think it's about the character. I have one character in my new wip (Simon for the betas) who tells us very little about himself. There are two reasons behind this: he's not an introspective sort and his role is the observer/ storytelling role about a story that isn't, initially, his. Later, as he gets more drawn in, he fills out a little, I think. On the other end of the spectrum, Kare never stops being introspective, because, particularly in the later books, that is his nature. So, should I force a character who is an intuitive, jump in there type into introspection?

Then then other end of the coin. I have another character in the new book who is a deep thinker, but his introspection may be slowing things too much.

How do you balance the two? Or is it a style thing and it's ok for me to blast a bit more than other writers? (I rarely get complaints about my books being slow overall.) But I'm not naturally introspective myself, so I might be missing part of what it is to be human. :D
 
I tend to think that you answered your own question; it's your style. You are certainly not the first author to forego introspection for movement. (In fact, the vast majority of the advice I see seems to suggest that introspection should be minimal, at least in genre fiction.)

If you are erring on the side of too much action and too little introspection, that's probably a good thing. That could be corrected fairly easily by adding just a touch of characters' thoughts and emotions and motives here and there within your narration. Erring the other direction could be a problem, but it should be correctable by editing out the excess.
 
Both my books so far are shorter than could be the case (100k and 95k respectively). I'm really not a fan of padding, and I'd rather have 100k than 130k which has 30,000 words of fluff.

As Victoria said, if it's your style there's nothing wrong with that.

It's also interesting that you're not introverted. I wonder what proportion of writers are (I'd guess a majority because the nature of the work, such as spending long hours alone, lends itself to introverts). I am an introvert, which also makes it interesting [repeated phrase, I know, but I'm sleepy] that (although our writing would never be confused) we both seem to prefer a faster paced style.
 
So far as I understand it, it's not so much about the character thoughts as much as how the character perceives the world. That means what they see will be affected by their biases, experiences, etc.

Motivation as a continuation of this by asking: Why is this person doing this? Why are they here? What do they want? These questions as applying both to individual scenes and the overall story.

When I spoke to John Jarrold earlier this year he made a comment on the lines of: the story is what the character experiences.
 
I don't understand the question. I just find it amusing when you lot say 100k is short. I think if I ever manage to reach even 90k, the world might end.
 
I've only reached 100k once! Mostly I come in around the 80 mark. Basically, should I have more chacracter introspection or does this kill pace? And does it vary from character to character?

@ Thaddeus, I can't stand padding of any sort!

Victoria, Brian, ty!
 
I think I tend towards introspective PoV characters :)o). Setting that aside...

...he's not an introspective sort and his role is the observer/storytelling role about a story that isn't, initially, his. Later, as he gets more drawn in, he fills out a little, I think.
Isn't this going to be a problem all of its own, a character who's set back a bit from the action?

I suppose that if he's only an occasional PoV character during the period in which he's outside the action - and only appears frequently in the foreground when he's more deeply involved - this wouldn't be too a big issue. Even so, perhaps some introspection connecting him (the real him that you suggest is not described) to the early part of the story wouldn't go amiss. Otherwise you may end up with what looks like a purely passive character until he does get more involved.
 
Basically, should I have more chacracter introspection or does this kill pace? And does it vary from character to character?

Personally, I like a little introspection. But I've read books where characters navel-gaze so much that it kills not only the pace, but also any desire to read further. Balance is everything. And yes, I think it does depend on the character.
 
I think I tend towards introspective PoV characters :)o). Setting that aside...


Isn't this going to be a problem all of its own, a character who's set back a bit from the action?

I suppose that if he's only an occasional PoV character during the period in which he's outside the action - and only appears frequently in the foreground when he's more deeply involved - this wouldn't be too a big issue. Even so, perhaps some introspection connecting him (the real him that you suggest is not described) to the early part of the story wouldn't go amiss. Otherwise you may end up with what looks like a purely passive character until he does get more involved.

No, I don't think he is passive -- no one has brought that one up yet, anyway! It's more that he responds to the events rather than going into deep soul searching of his own.
Personally, I like a little introspection. But I've read books where characters navel-gaze so much that it kills not only the pace, but also any desire to read further. Balance is everything. And yes, I think it does depend on the character.

That's normally my take on it.

Yes, this one. But you know that.

I do. I know. I have become frozen with hideous doubt. Urgh. :( I have another chapter of about two thousand words which is all one single character and introspection city, and I'm looking at it from the other angle. Yuk.
 
As per Mouse's answer.

Sometimes you need some introspection, sometimes you don't. Cos that's people. Some search their souls more than others. Certain scenarios demand that characters question themselves more than others, too. Balance. Which I know you know.
 
Springs, at the pace you type, I question wether you are human as well. :D

I think you can accomplish both characters. Ok, one is introspective, and one jumps into action, but they both have their motivations. Just show them differently.

Surround Kare's choices with questioning and doubt. He debates it in his mind, maybe he gets tired of thinking about the choice. People are tired of hearing him languish over decisions. Something like that.

Then Simon comes along and thinks to himself, "Hey, that has to get done! I'll go do it!" Maybe later people question his rash decisions or admire him for "feeling his way though" difficult times? Show the advantages or problems in both methods.

I think those differences could be very interesting to watch.
 
I have a picture of Springs as a robot sitting by a laptop with a blur of words flowing across the screen, it would explain the word count we all want!

I think a little telling is ok, but each to their own. The fact that your switching pace between characters for different plots shows well developed writing. Having a different feel for each character would make for interesting reading. In the end developing something individual to you is what counts, that's what gets you a fan base, your own voice. Keep playing, you'll get there.
 
A hundred thousand? I was lucky to hit fifty thousand - I can't really fit much in the way of extra introspection in without it seeming tacked on, certainly not thirty thousand words worth of it. Too much thinking as I see it will get in the way of the jokes and the action - my work is quite fast-paced, with a couple of fast-moving gunfights and space battles before a huge battle at the end finishing with a (fairly big) twist in the middle of the hero's court-martial.

Does anyone have any ideas on how I could expand things without making it look like I've expanded it?
 
At fifty thousand you're going to have to do more than just "expand." A little introspection isn't going to do it, you need to add more to the plot itself. New characters, new side plots, more steps (though meaningful ones) added to your main plot, there are lots of ways to do this. At this level your problem is more of structure than of style or voice.

On the subject of the thread, I sympathize. I'm on my second novel right now, and the main character is one that needs a lot of introspection, but I spent the longest time tying to write him as the strong, silent, take-action type. I finally found that he can still be that, but only to other people and not to the reader/himself. Everyone else sees a man of action, but in his own head he's brooding, self-pitying, and his action is more the result of an underlying careless anger than of any sort of confident assertiveness.

At least length shouldn't be a problem for me. My first novel, fairly unplanned, felt hurried at 126k words. This one is a little more structured, and judging by the first 18k that I've got done so far, I'm shooting for somewhere around 100k in length. I've been writing at a great pace, too. The last couple of weeks have seen me doing about 1k - 1.5k a day. I'm only 18k in because I spent a couple of months doing rewrite after rewrite barking up the wrong tree until I finally figured out what I was doing wrong with the character and the story. Now that I know what I'm doing, it's just sailing.
 
It depends. When I first completed Mayhem it was only 49K and now it is at 99K. If anything I've simplified the story and removed some of the subplots.

Rewriting it I realised I knew more about the character, setting and story. The longer story came out more naturally with extra introspection etc It was just too fast paced before,.
 
A hundred thousand? I was lucky to hit fifty thousand - I can't really fit much in the way of extra introspection in without it seeming tacked on, certainly not thirty thousand words worth of it. Too much thinking as I see it will get in the way of the jokes and the action - my work is quite fast-paced, with a couple of fast-moving gunfights and space battles before a huge battle at the end finishing with a (fairly big) twist in the middle of the hero's court-martial.

Does anyone have any ideas on how I could expand things without making it look like I've expanded it?

For me, it's a combination of extra scenes -- I have two that I have identified as needed so far in this write through -- and exposition. But I do write very scant first drafts. (And second drafts, looking at what's currently on my screen.)

I did ask on #askagent last night, btw, what is the minimum length for a novel, as to get this much beyond 70 will move me into what I'd see as padding -- although with the extras I might get to 75. (I guess others might call it much needed description. :p But, you know, use your imagination, readers. :D ) The fab Juliet Mushens came back and said the shortest novel she's sold is 60k. So, I wouldn't aim to get a 50k up to 100, but maybe aim for a solid 70-80 range? That might be acheivable?
 
Some good thoughts here, I do have a couple of planned scenes I dropped I could re-insert - if I play them right I can get a decent amount of play out of them.

I was going to have a Red Herring prologue - where two aliens of an ancient race are discussing an oncoming disaster and make plenty of references to a 'Chosen One' who doesn't actually show up and the disaster happens, only to make a few veiled references to the hero possibly being the 'Chosen One' a few milennia later - yes there was a 'Chosen One', he does save the planet, but he does it long after the original civilisation has passed on. It was meant to be a little dig at the whole 'Chosen One' line of storytelling.

But then, there's a lot of little digs at various things here and there in my book. In the whole series, to be honest. Wait until I get round to the one where they infiltrate a top secret Space Nazi gene-engineering facility that's creating an army of super-handsome vampire soldiers with lazer-proof skin which sparkles in direct sunlight.
 
As someone who is currently writing with a very similar dilemma about whether I'm using too much introspection, this struck me as a good thing to give my two pennies worth as a first post (newly joined and all that)

I've got two main characters and I'm telling the story from one of their perspectives at all time (Third person limited?... I think that's the right term).
One is much more prone to self doubt, examination of motives and actions and introspection. I've used that line of in-character thinking to set out some of the world history and setting at the same time as they think over recent events. Almost like exposition without it being exposition. (Which strikes me as a good way to do it!)
The other character is a lot more down to earth, lives much more in the now, and has significantly less examination of her thoughts and motives. She doesn't doubt herself, she just gets on with things.
Her background is significantly different and is at odds with events going on around them, so I use the moments of introspection she doeshave as a counterpoint to what events in the story.

I'm currently at 65k words, it feels like it's around 2/3 of the way through, so I'm roughly on course for the 'ideal' (as I understand it!) length of around 100k, but I have a bit of a track record of underestimating the amount of content in stuff I've only sketched out so far...

The point is: I often worry about the chunks of expositionary introspection from one character, but every time I read back through it with the intent of tidying up and clearing out unnecessary waffle, I come to the conclusion that it's interesting and important to the setting and the character herself. It's not just fat that needs trimming. It seems to be balancing fairly well with the OTHER things going on and the other point of view, that are quite different in style.

I guess the ultimate conclusion from all that, is that as long as your slower and more personal moments are balanced with other events or people, it shouldn't start to drag.

(at least, I really hope it doesn't! Else I'll need to do some huge reworking!)
 

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