|Courtesy of MorgueFile.com|
“Hi,” Jane said.
“Hi. How are you?” John said.
“I’m fine. How are you?”
“Not bad. What’s new?”
Bleah! Not very interesting is it?
Writing fiction presents a confusing challenge to writers: what’s the line between realistic narrative and fiction?
The answer depends on the genre of your story, but the general rule is if it doesn’t move the plot along, scratch it.
Do we have conversations like the one above? Yes. Several times a day. But it’s boring to read. We don’t care about this. Readers want to read something that grabs them and puts them in the story. Rather than take the time to include these introductory phrases, use the time to set the scene. With a good setting, readers will feel present and assume the typical banal greetings have already occurred.
The same goes for this interchange:
“Is this the one you need, Mrs. Smith?”
“Oh please, call me Jane.”
Granted you might find a reason to include this in your story, but make sure you have a very good reason. Otherwise, let your characters use first names if that’s where they are going.
Sounds simple, but this line becomes hazy as you write. You need to know what your genre expects.
I read a diverse list of genres, but my go-to preference is fantasy. In urban fantasy, the pace flies. The protagonist moves from one conflict to the next with no more than a breath sometimes. It’s unreal and impossible to imagine. It’s not grounded in reality. Urban fantasy abounds with supernatural characters. Readers expect this fast pace and non-stop action. The story must clip along.
Epic fantasy, on the other hand, allows you to move at a somewhat slower pace. It requires a lot of world-building, and it can’t be written like a history lesson. World-building must occur throughout the story, dropped in at times that make sense without intruding on the reader’s experience. This takes time. But don’t forget, action must occur to move the story forward.
Like urban fantasy, mysteries or thrillers move at a quick pace. A criminal, usually a murderer, threatens people's safety. Something must be done to locate and stop them. The fast pace ramps up the tension. But let’s face it. How often does your average person run across a dead body or crime within their social circle? Not too often, but readers come back for the protagonist each time. So, we accept the improbability of a non-law-enforcement individual tripping over these crime scenes, but we expect it to fit the norm of the genre beyond that.
The fine line exists. To find it, go back to the books you love in your genre. What fits with reality? What doesn’t? Your answers will guide you to a better story. Then share your answers here.