Wednesday, May 19, 2010

What Basic Need Can I Withhold From the Character?

Often in our writing, we know what needs to happen in a scene so we write it. But what if the information being conveyed is on the boring side? It needs to be written in order for the book to make sense, but the material is a bit dry? I recommend a combination of things to spice up these scenes.

First, brainstorm a plausible way for the information to be given through dialogue.
Second, withhold a basic need from the character who is on the receiving end of the information.

For example: (Genre: Historical romantic suspense) You need to give information to the reader about the weapons that just arrived on a ship. They'll play a key role in your plot later on, but for now, you need to plant them and their purpose in the hero's mind. His uncle is filling him in on the affair.

Write the scene from the hero's point of view. Let his uncle start spouting off about the weapons. Now, a reader is going to get bored of weapon talk pretty quickly, so this is where the fun random question comes in. What basic need is our hero lacking right now?
Is he hungry? Thirsty? Exhausted? Winded? Any of these qualities will distract him--and the reader--from the boring information, while allowing the information to still come out. Make sense? With each morsel of information, break into the hero's focus on his own needs. Have him barely listening to his uncle because he will fall down if he doesn't have a drink/sandwich/bed immediately.

"The Brittania set shore earlier," Uncle Bart said.

"You don't say?" Robert's stomach growled. He hoped Uncle Bart wasn't going
to be long-winded but knew the hope was in vain. Maybe he could summon
Jeeves with a tray of biscuits?

"The navvies pulled in the usual, but one pallet interested me. I had my
boy check it out. Guns. Guns like I've never seen before..."

Every other week Uncle Bart found something unusual on one of the
ships. Robert licked his lips, the idea of roast beef and potatoes gelling in
his mind. If he didn't get something to eat soon--

"...and strange markings on the barrels..."

How do you sneak boring information into your books?

Join me on Friday for One Goal!


  1. Thanks Jill, that's helpful advice :)

  2. yes very helpful!! I'm so using this :)

  3. Oh wow! That was good! Thanks!!!
    And you always have the best pictures on your posts!!!

  4. Chick Lit Author: Thanks!

    Shelby: It's fun! Try it!

    Sherrinda: Can't take the credit--the generous folks at Flickr Creative Commons do a fab job with the pics!

    Thanks so much for stopping by!

  5. That is a great picture. Makes me want to hop out to the market!
    I have a scene I'm working on that needs spicing. Great advise Jill. Thanks!

  6. Great way to spice up a potentially boring scene. You've got your writer's brain on. *wink*

  7. LOL, well I TRY not to include boring information, but sometimes it is necessary. I love your idea of finding a plausible way to insert it into dialogue :D

  8. great idea! i like this and the monkey idea- two faves for writing uniquely. :)

  9. Helpful tip, Jill. Spice works. Dull doesn't. Drawing attention away from the recitation of necessary information using a different character's pressing need is a clever way to remedy the situation. Thanks for including an example.

  10. Lynn: The picture makes me kind of hungry!

    Ralene: My writer's brain--love it! Ha!

    Georgiana: Maybe boring is the wrong word--maybe vital, but we don't want the reader to know it yet, is a better way to think of it? :)

    Amber J: Thanks!

    Keli: Fun trick I learned from writing craft books!

    Thanks so much for stopping by!

  11. Brilliant! Where have you gleaned all this wonderful information?

  12. Such a great concept Jill. Very useful and simple as well. Thank you for sharing this method. By the way: your spice picture just made me extremely hungry!

  13. Hi Jill -

    I sure hope you're backing up this blog. You wouldn't want to lose these gems. Love your posts!

    Susan :)

  14. Thank you for this info; I think I may have to bookmark this:)

  15. Erica: Not from my own head, that's for sure! I love studying writing craft books!

    Regina: Me too--lunch? :)

    Susan JR: Thanks, that's so nice of you to say!

    Karen: You're welcome and I'm so glad you like it!

    Thanks so much for stopping by!

  16. Love this! Sometimes my characters daydream during this kind of information only letting the key words filter through their musings:)

  17. You can actually use this same idea to go beyond simply withholding basic needs. You can create great internal conflict within a character by pitting basic needs against higher, aspirational needs. This can work in both directions.

    I wrote a blog post all about this not too long ago, which you can find here:

  18. You always have such good ideas. This would work very well.

  19. Kara: Nice, another great technique!

    Jason: Welcome! Great advice--I look forward to reading your post!

    Nancy: Aw, thanks!

    Thank you so much for stopping by!


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