I can't imagine anything feeling better than finding some level of pride in one of my projects. (Well, there might be a few things that feel better, but I can keep my clothes on for this one! Hehehe!) And that pride doesn't just come from favorable responses and good ratings. In fact, it comes from finishing a new chapter or project before anybody ever even sees it. It's like the planets and stars align, and everything is finally fitting together the way that I pictured it...or at least as close as I can get to that ideal presentation. I honestly get excited about releasing new stuff on the site. More than the readers do, believe it or not.
But one thing that I always pressure myself to remember is...'I need to get this right first'! That's the most important part of the process for me. The wording, the emotion, the structure...that final 'spit and polish' that's going to make the whole medley truly sing. That takes patience. Getting that part done right takes time, and it can be frustrating when my muse is being stubborn, but once I get it to sparkle the way I want it to...I'm practically beaming with a grin for the rest of the week!
Now...not everything that I write is going to be a big hit with my audience. Everything that I release is not going to have some huge, dramatic, event take place that will leave readers angry, overjoyed, or sobbing uncontrollably at the end. I don't expect it to. Sometimes, writing a story feels more like drawing a detailed picture, or building something out of old school Legos. In my mind...I know exactly how I want the final picture to look when it's finished. So being certain about where the lines, the colors, the building blocks, go in order to make that happen, is just as important as the major events that they're either building up to, or coming down from. You can't skip to building an awesome attic in a house without building the basement first, right? It's something that I've learned to appreciate, and pay more attention to since I first started.
In my earliest days of writing stories at Nifty, I had four points that I wanted to hit with every short story and every additional chapter that I added to my list. Introduce the cute boy characters, find a way to get them together, find a way to express their feelings for one another, and then...let's get some mattresses squeaking! Hehehe! I figured that, as long as I got those four main parts of the plot right, then a lot of readers would probably just skip over most of the other stuff anyway. Why concentrate on the details? At best, they'll 'skim' through it and keep scrolling down the page until somebody gets naked. The same idea was applied to my sci fi stuff when it was still in the planning stages. People want to see the alien, the vampire, the spooky ghost...get to the point already before you lose their attention and ruin the story!
I feel like that was a novice mistake on my part, looking back on it.
One that I've learned to correct over time, and with a lot of practice.
Details, depth of character, backstory, clearly defined motivations...these are not meant to be seen as boring parts of a story. They're not meant to slow down the pacing or to merely act as 'filler' for readers who are immediately looking for something juicier to jump out at them with every few thousand words. In fact, when done with the right amount of flair and a hint of mystery...it can become the most intriguing part of your project.
This time around...I'm going to try to express the importance of 'connective tissue' in our stories, and how we can use them to enhance a story, rather than flatten it out. (If that makes sense)
My older stories and chapters were often a lot shorter than they are nowadays. In fact, many of them are only half the size of the chapters I try to put out every week or two. And while those stories were straight to the point, and said what they needed to say...I felt my love for details and connective tissue spreading out as I got more relaxed with my own voice in terms of writing. Reading feedback and emails from the people absorbing it all...I found that they weren't skipping over the so-called 'boring' parts at all. I mean, sure...I know that there are readers that are in a big rush to have certain issues resolved and certain events to finally take place...but I refuse to rush it. I absolutely refuse. And it's because I can see the finished work in my head. Even if the readers can't. And those tiny little intricate details and casual mentions of past or future events are all needed to build the design that I want my stories to have.
I think that, with writer maturity, you learn that it's more about telling the story you want to tell, and less about trying to simply 'entertain' with the words you put together. And as authors...isn't that the whole point?
One quote that I live by is, "Some people write because they want to say something...and others write because they have something to say." And if any of us are having trouble figuring out the difference...then that's the first journey that we should all be taking to be a better writer. Hehehe, it's something to meditate on when you have some free time.
There are times when fans will politely (or not so politely) push you to turn tricks in your story without fleshing it out properly. But you have to train yourself to resist the urge to 'perform' instead of 'create'. If you have a plan in place...stick to it. And mold it into what you want it to be. This is when I get to truly be selfish and tell everybody, "WAIT! I'm getting to the good stuff! Just hold your friggin' horses!" Hehehe! And that may lead to some folks feeling aggravated and impatient...but if they rush back to read the next chapter? Then I've already done my job as a writer. And, here we both are...back in the saddle again.
I want to show you a few fun videos. It's basically cartoon rabbits re-enacting some of your favorite movies, but rushing through them in 60 seconds or less. Now, even though this is an exaggeration for comedic purposes...THIS is what your story looks like with no connective tissue! With so-called 'filler'. This is what you have when a rabid 'event oriented' fanbase pushes you to skip the boring stuff in order to hurry up and get to what they say they want to see.
Entertaining? Sure. But will it be your best work? Will people remember these a day later? Can you shove the depth and meaning that you wanted your story to have in these few short moments?
You're an author. Have confidence in your art. And don''t let anybody force you off the road when you're pursuing your passion. Is this your story, or their story? Take control and be proud of your creative choices, cheers or jeers be damned.
One thing to remember is to constantly build upon the foundation that you created from the very beginning, and to remember the essentials every step of the way. When I say that, I mean that every chapter of your story should be an evolution of the chapter before it in some way. Now, that doesn't mean that your protagonist has to go from a painfully shy bookworm to a full blown gigolo within a chapter or two, or from a farm boy to a powerful Jedi knight in a week's time. The growth can be gradual, steady, and in sync with who your protagonist is as a character. Give them time to learn, and bring your audience in to the learning process with them. If you've got a big action scene coming up, or a dramatic character death, or an explosive first kiss...then that's awesome! These things are the benchmarks of a great story, and those will be the scenes that most people will remember when they're finished and think back on your story later on. BUT...that connective tissue can add a few extra sparks to those bigger scenes that you're so anxious to get to. They are meant to give those bigger moments meaning.
I've discovered SO many missed opportunities in my older stories as I was going back through them to re-edit and fix them up to release as ebooks. Moments that I skipped over, dialogue that ended too abruptly for my tastes, opportunities for character development that were ignored...if I were to rewrite those stories all over again, I would definitely do things differently.
However, since I write and release my stories, chapter to chapter...there are some scenes, or even whole chapters, that some may see as 'filler'. But I can assure you...they're not. I'm always thinking ahead, and whenn those future chapters come around, readers will be able to look back at those old boring chapters and say, "Omigod...NOW I see where that came from." That's the whole point.
Connective tissue in a story can have a variety of effects on your plot. It can display the aftermath of a recent event, and explain how your main characters are dealing with it...and how they plan to progress from there. It can also drop hints and clues and create a trail of breadcrumbs for your readers to follow towards the next big event. Creating speculation, foreshadowing soon to be revealed secrets, or increasing tension for a building conflict. Connective tissue can bring two unlikely friends or lovers together through a seemingly mundane situation or conversation, or it can shift the focus of your main story to concentrate on a few supporting characters or a related subplot while giving the main plot a rest. Think of it as an opportunity to take all of your best ideas, your most memorable moments...and gluing them together with something interesting enough to hold it all together.
Connective tissue is all about answering your reader's questions before they're asked. That's all.
"Why did this happen?"
"Who is the woman in black?"
"How is this kid going to come out to his homophobic stepdad?"
"Where is this thing with the college roommate going, and is he flirting or not?"
See...without a series of scenes to ask, and then provide possible answers, to questions like these between the big moments in your story...then all you have is a bunch of dramatic 'dun dun dun!' moments with no reason or meaning to your audience. Always remember...'show', don't 'tell'. You can't just convince your readers that a gay teen coming out to his stepfather is scary by simply writing, "I'm scared to come out to him because he's a homophobe." Well...I mean, technically, you can...but it won't have the same impact. It's just words on a page. It conveys a message, but not the emotion behind the message.
Instead...why not try having a few short (but effective) scenes where you demonstrate that this stepfather doesn't care for gay people? Maybe he hears something on the news and makes some off colored remarks about it. Maybe he's trying to get his stepson involved in sports to keep him from being a 'sissy'. Or maybe there's a TV show with a gay character on it, and he swiftly changes the channel to display his distaste for the subject matter. This might seem like boring filler dialogue to some, but what you're actually doing is building a history of behavior for this side character in your story, and explaining why his stepson is afraid to come out to him as being gay. You're providing actual reasons for your protagonist to feel the way he does. This is necessary when telling a good story, even if your audience is in some big hurry to skip over it because they don't see where it's leading the way you do.
Now, let's say your main character finds a love interest, and decides to come out in order for them to be together. But...in a rage, the stepfather ends up kicking him out of the house and screaming that he can never come back. Not ever. This is (finally) where you can see why the connective tissue was needed. You can see the last domino fall, and trace it back to where the chain reaction happened in the first place.
If you skip around...and write, "I'm scared of my stepdad, but I'm in love now. I'm going to do it. I'm going to tell him tonight." And then you have a short dialogue and have him kicked out of the house? Well...it's functional. Not bad. I would have written it the same way when I was still finding my way around a keyboard. Hehehe! But now? I want that connective tissue there to bring color and understanding to what's going on here. I want readers to see the stepdad for who he is ahead of time, anticipate his negative reaction, feel the tension when coming out becomes a necessity for the gay teen, and then be shocked and appalled when the explosive conflict happens at last. There's a build up. An arc. Your readers are already entrenched in the situation before they even read it. Then they experience the emotional impact, first hand. They're given a clue as to what built up to this moment, and how the main character is planning to press forward towards the next big event. They're a part of that journey.
I wish I could stress how much these chapters mean to building a better project when you're writing. A few missing bricks in a wall can cause it to collapse. DON'T RUSH! Take your time, and craft your story your way! K? People will either like it, or they won't. You don't have any control over that. The goal is to give birth to a project that you can be proud of, and that went exactly the way you wanted it to go. Much like sex...sometimes it's better to slow down and take your time so your 'partners' can enjoy it.
As always, I hope this helps! Happy writing to you all! And it's good to be back! Hehehe! Sorry about disappearing for the holidays! But, you know...'family' and stuff!