In previous posts, I explored tackling those “boring chapters” that pop up in your story by either skipping or pushing through them. In this series, I want to argue that you can change what seems like a boring chapter into something that’s fresh, maybe even exciting, depending on how you change your own outlook and approach to it.
I’ve Never Met a Boring Chapter
Let me pose a question. If a chapter is indeed so boring that you can’t bring yourself to write it, does it really need to be written? I mean, if you’re completely bored with it, and you’re the one creating it, chances are, it’s going to bore your readers, too.
So what can you do about this? Well, first analyze the chapter and determine if you should write it at all. Is it something you can summarize without effecting the story flow? If so, cut it and move on. However, if you deem it important enough to write, it’s time to change your mind about the chapter to make it something more exciting for you and your reader.
How do you do this? Stay tuned as this series provides several options, starting with the most basic: character building!
Do you have a lull in your story’s action? A looming chapter with the chance of boredom? It’s a perfect time to build character!
This is not something you want to spend the whole chapter doing. But if, for example, your character is walking down the street, and you want to give the impression of time passing, you can take the opportunity to get in the character’s head for a little while.
I suggest a bit of free writing at this point. Leave your expectations at the door, and just let your character think and observe and mull over his feelings for a while. This offers the chance for you to learn more about your character, and even gives the reader a glimpse inside as well. I find some of my most unexpected plot turns hinge on moments when I allowed my characters to talk to me a little while.
SoYa: An Example
When I first started writing my fantasy series, Dreigiau, I didn’t know a lot about one of the main characters, SoYa. I didn’t spend time developing him before I started writing. I had a sense of his basic starting personality — I knew he was somewhat timid, but he took his responsibilities seriously, and had the potential to be much more than he allowed himself to be. I didn’t understand what held him back. I didn’t even know he was a mind mage at that point! Once I did discover this fact, his character suddenly unfolded in front of me in so many unexpected directions.
SoYa revealed this to me in what is now Dreigiau Book 1, Chapter 2o. This was actually a much earlier chapter in the original version, but was moved to be mid-book in the newest revision.
I was writing a chapter where SoYa just returned to his home town, excited to tell his brother his newest discovery. His brother wasn’t home, so he spent some time walking through the town searching for him.
Rather than just skip this part completely, I allowed SoYa the freedom to look for his brother in the method he’d choose. To my surprise, he quickly displayed his ability to use mind magic for the first time by using a small spell that scanned the city to find the mind-feel of his brother’s location.
What followed went something like this…
Me: Wait. You’re a mind mage?
Me: Why didn’t you tell me before?
SoYa: Because I don’t tell anyone about it. It’s a secret.
Me: How come?
SoYa: Well, people are scared of mind mages in this world — they’re considered to be a bad thing. My father told me to keep my power a secret, no matter what.
Me: So… is this part of what’s holding you back from claiming your rightful place as leader?
SoYa: It’s a big part of it, yes. People don’t realize what I can really do — they just think I’m a miserable healer. I guess I’m a disappointment to those who expected me to be a powerful warrior-mage like my father.
Me: But you COULD be a powerful mage!
SoYa: Yes. Maybe. I can’t let THEM know that, though.
So, within the space of a few paragraphs, I suddenly had a character who opened up a whole new dimension to his struggle, personality and motivations. This was all because I took what might have been a boring chapter, and let the character have control for a while.
So next time your character needs to do something mundane like fold clothes, walk down the street or fix dinner, see what’s going on in his head. You might be surprised what will come of it.
Have you ever just let your character take control of a chapter? What happened when you did? Did you learn something?
Important Note: This doesn’t mean I encourage you to let your entire chapter ramble with all kinds of character internal spew. Free write for a while, but make sure you return to this chapter and edit out what you don’t need. Remember, in rough drafts, you can leave notes to yourself and explore. But not all exploration should make it to the final draft!