As I get back into my middle grade science fiction novel, Air Stream, I’m reworking the three chapters that I had already written. The first scene? Let’s just say that I did a great job on that one and then proceeded to goof things up later on.
I was trying to work in the theme. Foreshadowing is not my strength and I was trying not to be too heavy handed. Not only did I fail to work my theme into the scene, the scene was so sketchy and light weight that my critique group didn’t know why it was in the book.
Sigh. Then I read a blog post by Nathan Bransford, Don’t Step on Your Surprises. After reading this, I have a much better idea what I did wrong. Follow these three tips and you’ll do a better job than I did.
Connect the Dots
One of the things that Bransford warned his readers not to do is to fail to lay things out. In trying not to be heavy handed, we often don’t do enough. We create slight scenes without working in the information that will lay things out for the reader. What is this information? It could be specifying the character’s desire. It could clarification of the consequences or stakes – what will happen if the character fails to get what they want? It might be an obstacle or other delay. Each scene, even scenes that foreshadow, need to have something critical to the story.
Avoid the Heavy Hand
I was too worried about being heavy handed. I was afraid that I would give too many information away too early.
As described by Bransford, being heavy handed is often a matter of telling the reader what is going to happen and then having it happen. They get a double dose of the same story segments.
As with so many writing elements, the best way to do this is to achieve balance. Create a scene that serves a purpose in the story. Then slip in a little something.
This is what I didn’t succeed in doing. My scene should matter, but, like I said before, it is too slight. I’m going to have to expand it. Once I do that, two of my secondary characters will have the space needed to discuss the theme without it seeming strange or out of place.
What can I say? It is time to try, try again. Connect the dots while not being heavy handed. It make take another try or three but I’m going to make this work.