Narrowing Down To The End

I just finished reading a fairly good book.  It was a fantasy about a group of people who traveled to another, magical world, got separated as soon as they arrived and, as time passed, got together again.  Each time they got together there was a conversation describing what had happened while apart.  Because several characters were separated, I read at least half a dozen conversations describing their time apart. Actually, one conversation repeated several times as the same information was told to different characters.  Using almost the same words

In that respect, the book was true to life.  In real life, people repeat the same conversation every time they tell someone else the same story.  And what happens?  Listeners roll their eyes and tune out.  Same thing happens in fiction.  Because it’s boring.

I loved The Hunger Games.  I read every word describing the first Hunger Games.  But I admit that I skipped most of the descriptions of the future Games.  Because I knew how they worked. I knew how they were organized.   I didn’t need or particularly care to read more of the same.

It’s true that some stories should contain what might be considered an overabundance of a certain kind of scene.  Car chases in car chase movies. Fights in martial arts movies.  And there are a few others. But not very many others.

So what to do?  How to handle a situation where familiar information must be provided several times?

Ever seen a funnel?  One of those things that’s used to pour stuff from a large container into a smaller one?  Ever notice how it’s wide at the top and narrow at the bottom?  Most stories should resemble a funnel.   Lots of description, tons of details, at the beginning. The fat part of the funnel  But as the story progresses… and especially as it nears the climax… use fewer words,  have your character say they  understand and get on with the story, skip whatever isn’t essential.  Get on with the story and trust your reader to fill in the blanks.  Most readers don’t want the rush to the climax to be slowed with unnecessary, nonessential information that slows things down and puts a damper on the excitement.

In other words, trust your reader’s intelligence.  If you laid your foundations well in the beginning, as the story progresses they can fill in a few blanks all by themselves.  And they’ll thank you for it.

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