Tuesday, March 10, 2009

When is enough enough?

I currently find myself in a very odd situation. My agent actually feels I need to put more into the novel I’ve been working on for the past 6 months. When she first broached the subject, I was completely dumbstruck. I think I actually blurted out, “You mean you want me to add something?”

Now, I don’t want anyone who has yet to enjoy one of my novels to get the idea that they’re overly wordy. I don’t go in for long descriptions, nor are there a lot of subplots. But usually “those in power” are asking me to take stuff out. Another writer whom I respect a great deal and who has won multiple awards once said to me after reading a late draft of one of my novels, “I really love the scene you did in the small Welsh inn. That was quite a fine piece of writing. I could almost smell that sausage stew your characters ate.” Then he paused. “But you really should decide whether you’re writing a crime novel or a travelogue.”

I put that scene in because I thought I was doing a nifty bit of character development. Unfortunately, the stew and its surroundings got in the way to the point where anything other than the meal was completely lost. Hmmm... I took my friend’s advice and removed the scene. (I should put it up on my website one day so people can see what they missed. I can even include the recipe.)

So what do I do now? I mean I thought the book was complete! It’s not like my agent was saying the novel was missing a crucial plot point or that some character needed developing or clarifying. What she said next really stunned me, though. “I always come out of your books feeling like I’m smarter.”

Say what? “You mean I’m like having your unborn child listen to Mozart?”

“No, but music is such a huge part of your novels. I really think you pulled your punches on this one. Your main character goes through the story and I feel like music is just her day job.”

Whoa... If you’ve been following the saga of writing this novel that I’ve shared with Type M readers as its creation has gone on, you’ll know that my main character is an opera singer. A lot of the general population is terrified of what goes on in opera houses. I mean, to hear them talk, you’d think they were dens of iniquity, that opera lovers are a group of aliens and operas singers something akin to demons. So naturally, I soft-pedaled the opera parts a bit.

“Well, I did write more stuff that I didn’t put in...”

The agent was firm. “Put it back! I’ll tell you when you’ve gone too far. Trust me.”

This author is one happy camper. I feel like school has just been let out...


Charles benoit said...

Have a character tell a joke. I learn more about people by how they tell a joke (and what they think is funny) than most other obvious things. In Fat Ollie's Book by Ed McBain, the title character tells several awful jokes, but they let me know exactly the kind of man he is. What's that old saying - you can tell a man by how he reacts to 3 things: a rainy day, lost luggage and tangled Christmas tree lights.

Rick Blechta said...


Q. What's the difference between a soprano and a pitbull?

A. Lipstick.

Q. How do you get two opera singers to sing in tune?

A. Shoot one of them.