Monday, November 1, 2010

Collage or Hodge-Podge?

While waiting for a friend at a restaurant, I noticed a large poster frame with a picture collage. Smiling babies, impish kids, formal-looking adults, and an assortment of people were displayed.

I'm sure they represented the owner's and possibly the employees' families. Beyond the cute and curiosity factors, nothing captured my imagination. The pictures showed faces, but didn't tell a story.

As writers, do we produce scenes that paste people in a collage, but don't engage the reader? Do we give the reader an emotional connection to our characters and story?

Characters and scenes must have a reason for occupying space in our stories. Otherwise readers will walk away and never look back.

Does your collage (book) show the story? How do you decide what scenes and characters to edit out of your manuscript?


14 comments:

Cindy R. Wilson said...

This is a great way to look at it. I've done a lot of thinking about secondary characters over the last few days and tried to narrow down what makes them important and worthy to be in a story.

I always try to give a character and a scene a purpose and if they're just there to pass time and don't propel the plot, then I have to give them more consideration and maybe cut them.

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Cindy -

I call unnecessary characters "fillers." They take up space, but don't contribute anything to the plot.

Blessings,
Susan :)

Jill Kemerer said...

I never thought about it this way. Thanks, Susan. I don't want a bunch of faces in my book; I want real people.

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Jill -

While pictures are nice, they should tell a story. When someone looks in one of my photo albums, they know it's my wedding.

When a character shows up in a story, what is their purpose?

Blessings,
Susan :)

Karen Lange said...

Good point! Everything has to have a reason to be in the story. I dislike loose ends, and don't want any in my stories.
Blessings,
Karen

Rhonda Schrock said...

This is out of my depth as a nonfiction writer because all of my "characters" are flesh and blood. I just can't make that stuff up. :)

Sighing...

But laughing a little bit, too.

Happy Election Day

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Karen -

I recall reading a series where a couple of plotlines were unresolved. It's good to leave the reader with questions in the first chapter, but not at the end of a series.

Blessings,
Susan :)

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Rhonda -

I've been on both the non-fiction and fiction side, so I know what you're talking about. :)

Thanks for reminding everyone it's election day. What a privilege we have to vote. I hope everyone reading this will exercise that right.

Blessings,
Susan :)

Faith Imagined said...

I'm having to cut several characters in my second book. I realized that, though they might be interesting, they don't move the plot.

Thanks again for the insight!

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Alisa -

Doesn't it hurt to cut characters you like? Maybe you can save them for another project. :)

Blessings,
Susan

Nancy said...

Stories and even collages need to be intertwined in some way. I love the creative process of laying out pictures and making sure they all come together. In my stories, I think I was able to do that, too.

Jean Fischer said...

Another great analogy, Susan. I love Rhonda's comment. I mostly write nonfiction, but when I do write fiction my characters are based on people from real life. Every character must fit the purpose of moving the story forward.

Blessings,
Jean

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Nancy -

Collages and plots are like puzzles. Each piece adds to the big picture.

Blessings,
Susan :)

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Jean -

That's interesting. I've done that on occasion, but my characters are usually composites of real and imaginary people.

Blessings,
Susan :)