(Reed’s Playlist for the day: Mr. Blue Sky by Electric Light Orchestra)
So I had an interesting experience the other day, and I wanted to gauge opinions of both readers and writers, but especially writers, on it.
I was kind of on a downswing a few days ago. Thank God I have people in my life who are kind enough to keep me positive when I can’t do it myself. But anyway, during that downswing, I took my own advice and looked back at one of my old writing projects, one I had dedicated a whopping 250,000 words to and then never finished. I remembered it being pretty bad.
I read back over it, and to my surprise, it was actually pretty good.
I could see the places where my writing hadn’t matured, but overall the tone and even the characters were pretty decent. And I was trying to remember what – besides burnout – had caused me to put the project down midway through a trilogy. I think I remember feeling that the plot was happening too glacially, that despite enjoying the characters’ journeys, I thought things were too slow on the macroscopic scale.
This is not an uncommon criticism of my work, by myself or others. And without even reading any of my creative writings, you could guess from this blog that it takes me forever to get to a point. I guess I’m the kind of person who likes a long exposition and worldbuilding and a slow revelation of plot.
And I always thought this was a bad thing – I’ve written multiple times about trying to get things fast-paced by cutting out backstory and worldbuilding and other such things, because I feel like it’s making people bored.
But right now I’m reading a book (I’ll wait until I finish and post a review on here to disclose the title) which I am really, really enjoying. It’s from a small independent press, and yet the quality is pretty much equal to any of those huge bestseller fantasy novels I’ve read. It’s blowing me away.
But the thing is, I’m halfway through the book and very little has happened. The characters are trying to piece together what happened on a history-changing night a while ago, and they’ve done at least a little bit of that, but overall, the plot is relatively undeveloped.
However, the story is incredible. The characters’ interactions with one another are very genuine, and they’re all super likable (except for that one character you’re supposed to be annoyed with). They’re not doing anything, but while they’re doing nothing, they’re talking to one another and discovering little pieces of this world and exploring things as a group.
So what I want to know is, do you as authors think it’s bad when a book has a lot of character-driven story occurring, but relatively little plot expansion? In other words, is it okay to go slowly with the actual plot of the book if we enjoy what’s happening to the characters?
Because if so, maybe that old trilogy is worth digging out of the garbage, dusting off, and taking another whack at.
Please let me know in the comments! I’ll be continuing to explore this myself, and I’ll bring any new thoughts I have back to you.
Yours, feeling jammy,