Writer Woes: An abundance of details

Sorry, needlessly complicated subplot. We're gonna have to let you go.
Sorry, needlessly complicated subplot. We’re gonna have to let you go. (creative commons, source: wikipedia)

This is the second part of my response to this blog post, asking about writing woes.

I write fantasy. And because it isn’t rooted in our world, that means I have spent a whole lot of time worldbuilding.

My current WIP deals with the interaction of three separate countries, as well as the influence of a fourth country that’s only mentioned in passing. Each of those countries has a dominant religion (or in Tarlam’s case, several dozen religions vying for dominance), creation myths, geography, technology, primary imports and exports, unique social structures, languages, taboos, dominant attitudes toward gender and sexuality, histories, virtues, vices, etc, etc, etc.

Each of the characters has their own backstory which shapes his or her attitudes and behaviors– and these actions have consequences. Some of those backstories overlap and influence other characters.

What’s frustrating is that many of these details will never see the light of day. I’ll know them, but they’re not relevant to the plot, so often they will sink beneath the surface, becoming little more than currents and subtexts. Sometimes one of the biggest writer woes is the struggle to know what to cut, especially when you really liked it.

Here’s an example from DREAMKEEPER:

Twenty years ago, one of the major characters helped send a ship full of refugees to a neutral country. While some of those refugees went into hiding, others banded together to form a resistance against the forces that drove them from their homes. The son of one of those resistance fighters grew up to become a spy, and planted himself as a footman in the same house as Aren, the protagonist. For years now, Aren’s been mistaking his attention for a crush, when in reality he’s been doing surveillance on her.

He’s still in her household, keeping watch– but in more than 100k words, he gets mentioned maybe twice. He doesn’t even have any lines. Because while he and the resistance are effective elsewhere, they don’t actually influence Aren’s story. And that means they got the ax.

Me, I like to think his story was interesting. But that’s what they’re talking about when they say to murder your darlings.

What about you? Have you had to cut any characters or subplots like these? Here’s a chance to share the darlings that might not get to see the light of day!

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5 thoughts on “Writer Woes: An abundance of details

  1. Hi there – I don’t write fiction with numerous characters but I can certainly relate to the concept of needing to make cuts to keep the content focused and not overwhelm the reader. In my first pass through my writing, I end up cutting half of it away. Since I started doing that, I think my writing has been more readable and more useful. it leaves me more room to tie up the details. 🙂

    Great work on the 31-day blogging challenge!

    Like

    1. Thank you!

      And I’m glad to find it’s worked for you. Even when our stories only feature a small cast, it’s easy to fall into that trap of divulging too much.

      I’m curious– are there any methods or tactics that you’ve found particularly useful?

      Like

      1. What I do now, is make sure I start with an outline. I prefer to simply sit down and write but that’s when I get into the weeds too quickly. My outline contains an overall goal for the piece – like a mission statement – that I keep looking at to reveal when I’m drifting.

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  2. Hi! I know this is somewhat off topic but I was wondering if you knew where I could find a captcha plugin for my
    comment form? I’m using the same blog platform as
    yours and I’m having difficulty finding one? Thanks a lot!

    Like

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