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Chop that plot!

The World's Largest AxePhil: One of the standard pieces of advice given to any writer is that you must remove anything that isn’t absolutely essential to moving the plot forward. This is certainly uppermost in our minds as we work through the suggestions from our publisher.

I’m inclined to suggest that it’s rubbish.

Yes, you need to remove pointless padding from the story. Keep things tight and the reader will be swept along by the text, but you can go too far.

Imagine this:

Boy is born, grows up, has a son and they defeat the baddies.

That’s all 6 Star Wars films in 13 words. If you’ve not seen them, I’ve saved you a lot of time. With the possible exception of the first 3, it wasn’t as much fun as seeing them was it?

How about:

Man meets old girlfriend. She leaves him.

Casablanca. None of that “Play it again Sam” stuff, just the plot.

I think reading a book is like eating a good meal. Yes, you can get all the nutrients from a single substance, but as the manufacturers of Soylent (not the one made from dead people) are discovering, eating is about more than just absorbing enough chemicals to keep you alive.

Likewise, reading is about going on a journey. Along the way you need twists and turns. Sometimes you need to stand and look at the scenery. Reduce a book to its bare bones and while it will be quick to read, the result will be a joyless affair.

Like a good steak needs a bit of fat, a good story needs a little padding. It’s just that both need only a soupçon of each.

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