*reminder to leave a comment by midnight EST tonight on the interview with Maria Snyder
for a chance to win a copy of Inside Out*
I like to critique, especially writers that have gotten the mechanics down and are trying to find the heart of their story. I think that's the key. You have to find the biggest problem, the most emotion-packed part of your idea, and focus on that.
And I said, 'Why do they have tails? Did their tails 'do' anything?'
He then told me how cool the whole concept was, that the tails were an interface between the aliens and the animals on their planet.
You see, I thought it was just an empty detail. A detail that didn't mean anything except 'Hey. I'm an alien. Look at my tail.'
But it was more. The tail meant "Hey, I'm an alien. I can use my tail to link with the brain of my cool flying beasties and into the soul of the planet. It defines how I relate to the world and explains my deep connection with nature."
See the difference?
Every detail must be a slave to the story. Relationships to other characters need to be shown in relation to the conflict. Don't let your characters get to know each other for ten or twenty pages, then get to the conflict. Start your story on page one, then work in the details around it. Let the reader get to know your characters as they work to stop the giant asteroid falling towards the earth.
Integrate the back story in only when their previous experiences cause them to do something unusual! For example, in Avatar, EVERYTHING we learn about James Sully is necessary to explain why he is on the Navi's planet. He's a soldier, now a parapalegic, whose identical twin brother was killed, and Sully was asked to take his place in the Avatar program. That's all we know about his backstory. The rest of who he is he shows us as he interacts with the Navi.
Not details, but telling details. Details that make us care and have an emotional response to the characters and their situation.
Stick to the story and the reader will stick with you. How do you make sure you're using telling details?
Glutton for Punishment?