Sunday, June 12, 2011

That Makes Sense

In order to be well received, a story must be coherent. This doesn’t mean that every detail must be accepted by every reader—that is a task I’m sure we can all agree is impossible. But everything in the book must fit together. If you want the picture on the puzzle box, you can’t force any which piece into another.

The best way to tell if your book makes sense is to have someone else read it, preferably someone with an analytical eye who isn’t afraid to tell you that the bloody footprints aren’t a red herring, they’re just nonsensical because the victim was strangled.

There are usually bits in books that jibe with most people, but not all. The twist seems contrived or the betrayal confusing…it happens. When I read SHUTTER ISLAND, I thought it was ridiculous that (first of all: SPOILER ALERT) everyone went along with the charade, including criminally insane mental patients who, as far as I know, had no reason to help. It bothered me that one woman scrawled “Run” on Teddy Daniels’s notepad when she apparently knew exactly who he was and that they would never let him leave.

Did this distract from the book? A little. Did it ruin the book for me? No. I think Dennis Lehane is an excellent weaver of words. It just didn’t fit with my mental processes. And maybe those of others, too.

While you can’t please everyone all the time, you should always listen to your critique partners. Especially if they’re all pointing out the same problems. Yes, it will mean more rewrites. But the truth about being a writer is that it’s actually mostly editing.

Stay minty fresh, everyone.

EDIT: Whoops. I accidentally clicked "do not allow comments." For shame! 


  1. Very true! I've noticed that when discussing books with pretty much anyone... we all had different bits that resonated.

    Also, does it have to be minty? Is there another fresh herb?

  2. Absolutely! In connection (sort of), I once had a writing teacher who gave me (and the rest of the class) this piece of sage advice: Always be able to answer the question why. Why did the character do that? Why did it happen that way? You don't always have to provide the answer to the readers, but you do have to know it for yourself.

    Tsk, tsk, tsk - well, at least you went back and allowed comments again. ;-)

  3. I agree! Everything must make sense and must happen for a reason. Now what did I do with those mintoes?

    Ellie Garratt

  4. You're spot on. It's really important to take what CP's say, especially if they are saying the same thing!


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