Joe’s Post #46
The CHEW ASS Method (Or how to spot your own crap.)
By me. The Krap King.
Silk made a great post about how we were all able to spot each other’s mistakes. Somehow it’s easier to look at another’s writing and see things we just miss in our own.
So how is that possible? Are we that blind?
Well… yes. We get caught up in our own story, sometimes put plot ahead of character, sometimes forget to put down things in our head, sometimes we’ll even fail to see how a reader will actually read what we write.
So, I’ve made up a list of how to spot your own crap. Chapter by chapter. A list of questions to ask…
1. Can I cut out anything that’s useless info, backstory that’s not needed, too many words where one will do, 3 pages where I could simply write, she jumped? Can I cut excess description, dialogue, even a whole subplot that’s just not needed? In other words, how can I make it as lean and readable as possible?
2. Is there humor somewhere? Hard to do in each chapter, harder still to do if you’re not writing a humorous story about a traveler whose capacity to get lost is legendary, but after an action scene, after a sizzling sex scene, or even just because your character views the world a little sideways, it can add so much to your story. I tell you, if I can make you laugh AND cry in a novel, I’ll probably own you.
3. Where’s the character’s want (or where is their goal expressed?) Seriously. Find it. Point to it on the page and circle it. It has to be in every scene or arced from other scenes, but there HAS to be a driving force. Big and small. Big one, save the world from mutant zombie megamonsters. Small one, get a gun.
4. Is there emotion? Oh, how hard this is for me. Maybe I should write more about robots. Is there a reaction to what’s happened? How does it affect them? Ok, not every character has to burst into tears in every chapter, but likewise, a character who goes through a story without reacting, without changing, without FEELING, is not a character we want to follow.
5. Are my characters acting in character (to Silk’s point). Are they acting or reacting based on who they are, what they fear or hope, what motivates them or what obstacles they must overcome? And if they don’t, is there a good reason for it (and is this ‘good reason’ explained?) This, for me, is the hardest to spot. Oh how foolish I sounded when I was forced to say, (during my critique), “Oh, wait, she did that because of something I didn’t write down.” Sadly, until they let me publish a novel with links that explain what I meant, not what I wrote, I need to work on this.
6. Are there stakes? Again, big ones, small ones, personal ones, emotional ones. I have to look at all the scenes and ask myself, so what if they didn’t do whatever it is they’re doing? What’s at stake if they lose a race? What’s at stake if they stay in a bad situation? What’s at stake if they just walk away and go see the new Wolverine movie?
7. Are my characters suffering? Oh, I’ve talked about this enough, but it’s basically making sure nothing is too easy for the poor buggers in my novel. Like me, they have to endure a lot before they succeed. Pain. Loss. Grief. Betrayal. Setbacks.
So, with every chapter, I will ask myself (sometimes outloud much to the embarrassment of anyone with me) Is there..
C – Cutting to be done?
H – Humor?
E – Emotion?
W – Wants or Goals
A – Actions consistent with the character
S – Stakes
S – Suffering
CHEW ASS, baby. My method.
Cool movies seen: None but some planned.
Queries out: 2
Rewrite update: Act 1 done.