What to do when a story is too skinny

Is your story too skinny

I recently came across a great article about cutting back when the story is too long. And my first thought was that in my current editing I have the opposite problem. I have too many holes and not enough story. So with the help of KM Weiland I am working to make my story grow.

I’m not padding it out – I’m making sure it’s full of all the right stuff.

If you have been following my blog you know that I’m usually working on several writing projects at the same time. The story that is too skinny is the Raven Crown trilogy. I’m still pounding away at the editing of book one. But I have submitted a request to a cover designer and in preparation for that I had to develop the synopsis and back cover copy.

The process did clarify where there are some story aspects missing. Such as character behaviour, for example the queen is frustrated by her younger sister, but I haven’t clarified the why.

The relationship between them isn’t clear. It couldn’t just be because she was asking too many questions. Why was she asking them, what was she asking and what did that show us about the younger sister? Even though Meg is my main character (the younger sister) I didn’t really feel like she came to life for me until the second book. But thinking about what she needs, what she wants and why she behaves as she does in book one has helped clarify who she is as a person, and so only strengthens her for the coming volumes.

This is the first edit of this story. Before I started I read through and marked all the issues, as I do, including where more chapters or scenes were needed.

Using the tips from the articles above, as I work through this edit I am focused on what relationships need building, where people are when we are focused on other characters. And of course, making sure I’m showing what is happening and not telling.

I had a chapter marked with two characters and a note “where are they?”

What I really wanted to know what, at that point in the story, each of them wanted. Would they be able to get that by coming together? But I didn’t really want to introduce them at that point. One character really wanted to meet the other, so I put them in a place where she could learn what she needed and he could meet her, although in a way that she didn’t know who he was.

In doing this I have opened up some more questions, some other aspects that could be explored later and we know him better, than in the previous draft (where he doesn’t really shine til book 2).

There are a few more scenes that can build this way…but I don’t want to give too much away.

I would like to think I’ve been reasonably good at the show don’t tell rule. But there are sections where rather than someone thinking briefly about what went before, it is clearer if I show it happening when it did. I replaced a paragraph of not very useful information with a whole scene that showed far more clearly what happened and the impact that had on the characters involved and will build nicely into more scenes later in the book.

There is far more I could be doing and I’m sure I will repeat some of these processes as the editing process continues. Particularly as this is only the first edit run, I’m trying to work through so many issues at once. But the main focus must remain, is this a good story and am I telling it in a way that is keeping the reader engaged. All of these little things assist in that. By keeping the reader informed of where all the key players are, by allowing them to know the characters by their traits, interactions and relationships with others; and by showing them a whole new world. Appropriate description will help as well, but I don’t want to go overboard. Description is a whole other level but something to keep in mind as well. To ensure the reader sees the world and characters as I do, or at least a little like I do, without ramming the  setting down the reader’s throat, or boring them silly with pages of the stonework of a single wall…

What keeps you engaged as a reader? Or do you only see what isn’t there?

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