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Monday, January 30, 2012

Lessons in Storytelling: Hold the filler please!


Do you ever watch those disturbing documentaries where they tell you all the crazy stuff put into hamburger meat? Ammonia. Bones. All the stuff that fell on the slaughter house floor (in the meat industry they call it “pink slime”—I’m not joking).  Sorry, I just ruined your trip to McDonalds today :)

All this filler is added to bulk up ground beef so they don’t need to have as much real meat. Crazy, right? Now follow my train of thought, because I do have a literary point.

I’ve had a new book on my shelf since November. It’s the end in a very popular series. I enjoyed the first few books, and I’ve been waiting a long time for the last one to come out. But now that I’m reading it I realize—IT’S MOSTLY FILLER!

I’m 230 pages in and nothing substantial has happened—NOTHING! Oh, there’s been a little conflict and a few of cool things, but that stuff could’ve been done in 50 pages, MAX! (Can you tell by the all caps I’m disgusted? I AM!)

Here are a few thoughts about filler. Keep them in mind when you are editing.
  • If you think it might be filler—IT IS.
  • If it doesn’t raise the stakes, move the story forward, or up the tension—IT’S FILLER
  • If you cut it and it doesn’t really change your story—“PINK SLIME”
  • Cut it and see how it reads. You can always put it back—CUT, CUT, CUT!
  • Just because you think it is cool, doesn’t mean it is—Words to live by Yanni :) 

Because I’m determined to learn something, I will finish this stinking book. Wish me luck. I’ve 630 pages of “pink slime” to go!

-Angie

DO NOT Google “hamburger pink slime.” It’s disturbing. Oh, and just as a reminder next week is the I'm Hearing Voices Blogfest. If you haven't done it yet there's still time to sign up :)



20 comments:

Miranda Hardy said...

Yuck! I'm over fast food and now beef. Lol

I hate filler. I'm an action girl who wants to be memorized when I'm reading.

Kyra Lennon said...

I think some filler can be necessary, but should be used very sparingly. :)

And I never want to eat another burger in my life lol!

Melissa Sarno said...

Angie! What is this madness? Help me Rhonda, I never want to eat meat again. I can't even think about literary filler after this!

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

Pink slime? Really? Ugh. Just...ugh.

Brinda said...

Yuck. :)

Meredith said...

Ewwww. That'll motivate me to cut the filler for sure. Haha, thank you!

Emily R. King said...

You've totally grossed me out. Good thing I didn't eat sausage for breakfast today, I've heard it's worse than beef. Thanks for making this lesson memorable!

Freya Morris said...

Sooo true - filler is boring and now I'm beginning to think of it as gross too.

Guys - you're both great. I love your blog and I wanted to express my thanks by passing this award onto you both: http://freyamorris.blogspot.com/2012/01/kreativ-blogger-award.html

Jenny S. Morris said...

My stomach is convulsing right now. YUCK! Pink slime. I haven't read the series I think your talking about. But I know everyone was SUPER excited about that book so that really sucks. I did start reading the 4th book in a series and realized the series should have ended at 3 because the 4th book was ALL fluff.

It is so hard to see your fluff when you love each word so much. But I hope that's where my crit partners will help me out.

Johanna Garth said...

I just read the second book in a crazy popular series and that was exactly what I thought! Filler and redundant!

Tara Tyler said...

it's the same for chicken nuggets. how is that legal!? no wonder my body rejects that stuff!
so beef up the good parts and trim the fat (pink slime, eww!)

Jolene Perry said...

SOOO true.
I just (mostly) read a YA book that at page 120, I was still getting "setup".
I didn't finish.

Jolene Perry said...

Oh, and the book Chew on This broke me of fast food in the three days I read it. Well, except tacobell. How much yuckiness can they put into beans?
Don't answer that.

Cassie Mae said...

Yum. I'm sitting at McDonald's right now actually. Thankfully stuff like this doesn't phase me, lol.

Kelley said...

Such great points. I sort of have the opposite issue. When I finished my MS I sent it to my first CP and was like...it's only 60,000 words and a YA Fantasy. If there's anything you need to no more about, or characters you'd like to see more of, tell me! :) haha. She told me two parts and it added 5,000 words. :)

Angela Brown said...

Can I just say WOW. Yeah, on both fronts. See, this is why I don't watch those documentaries. Ignorance is bliss on that front. However, I would not want readers having the kind of reaction to my novel that you're having to this one so I'm going to make sure I give my story many runs through the slicer.

Leigh Covington said...

Okay - I'm blocking all that hamburger info out and am eternally MORE grateful that we do our own beef! *sigh*
And you're totally reading INHERITANCE aren't you? The book of death. I have 200 pages left and it's killing me. Its on the shelf again until I get enough stamina to finish. :)

Melanie Fowler said...

can I go barf now?

At least you could relate this to writing.... go you.

Trisha said...

This kind of thing infuriates me, too. When the author is so successful they don't get edited like they used to.

I'm wondering if this is a certain series by a certain fantasy author. haha. Back when it was released, I read a really nasty review about it on another blog - nasty, but I loved it!

Neurotic Workaholic said...

Oh, filler drives me nuts. I often skip ahead past several pages of filler and peek at the part where the action finally occurs and moves the story along; if I have to keep skipping ahead, it makes me want to stop reading the book altogether.

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