Wednesday, March 6, 2013

'Filling In'

There are times in a novel when you have to ‘fill in’. You know what ‘big’ scene you want next, but you can’t leave the hero and heroine in limbo for a couple of days (or more) until they get to that scene.
If they’re not together during this time lapse, then it becomes a little easier. I’ve used several ‘devices’ e.g.
‘By the end of the week, she had serious doubts about whether she’d made the right decision…’
‘She asked herself the same question repeatedly during the next few days …’

‘She had more fun in the next few weeks than she’d had in a long time … ’ (insert a few examples, e,g, sailing, hiking , dinner together etc)
However, if the hero and heroine are together during that ‘time lapse’, I find it far more difficult to ‘fill in’. They need to ‘do’ something, but no-one wants to read about boring everyday things they might be doing – although I did read about five pages in one book about the meal the heroine cooked for her family (which had absolutely no connection with the main plot!)
In 'Changing the Future', my hero and heroine worked together at the same college. I didn't want all the ‘significant’ scenes and events to happen within a matter of days, but at the same time I couldn't use the ‘two weeks later’ phrase when they were seeing each other every day. I felt I had to fill in at least something about those two weeks, but without it seeming like a filler. It still has to add something to the plot, or the character development in some way.  
Sometimes I write a load of ‘filler’ – and then delete it all later! Other times my ‘filler’ turns out to have more significance than I realised when I wrote it.
Here’s a short excerpt from ‘Her Only Option’ . I needed Ross and Neve to have something to talk about as they walked along the quayside from the cruise ship to the motor boat across the Nile. I could, of course, simply have said 'They walked along to where the motorboats were moored and ten minutes later they were on the west bank of the Nile.'. Instead, I wrote this - totally off the top of my head:
At the end of the gangplank, Ross turned and held out his hand to help her onto the uneven stone steps. His touch sent delicious tingles to her nerve-endings. Part of her wished she could leave her hand within his firm grasp. Instead, self-consciously, she withdrew it when they reached the quayside path.
“How are we getting across to the West Bank?”
“I always use the same private motorboat. Elvis should be moored along here.”
“Elvis? Is that the name of the boat?”
Ross laughed. “No, the boat-owner. His real name’s Wasim, but he sings Elvis songs all the time—and I do mean all the time.”
When they reached the white motorboat with its green awning, Neve grinned at the name on the bow: Heartbreak Hotel.
So, with ‘Elvis’ singing to them, I got them across the Nile! And my young friend Wasim (who appeared out of nowhere in my mind) eventually played quite a big part in the later part of the story.
So, my task today is to find something for Jenna and Guy to talk about during their first evening in the Irish house they have inherited!


  1. I'm having the same issue with one of my manuscripts I'm working on now. The hero and heroine live together--well, she lives in the main house and he rents the barn out back--so they see each other frequently and I don't want to bore people with the mundane.

  2. So glad it's not just me, Jen! You're right - you don't want the mundane, but you still need a time lapse before the next significant event. I can usually find some way around it, but I still have to think hard about how to fill in that gap!

  3. Ah, the joys of editing.
    This reminds me of the efficiency of silent films. The screen would go black and a placard appeared that read, "Later that night," "back at the ranch," "the next day."
    Early filmmakers found that the audience followed along, just like the time changes between acts in a stage play.

    Efficiency seems best, then go immediately into new action. JMO.

  4. I think this illustrates just how films/stage plays and novels are different. A film can jump to later scenes, whereas a novel sometimes needs to show the transition. Particularly if, as Jen has said, the characters are seeing each other frequently during a 'time lapse', but without anything of major importance happening. Sometimes it may only need one sentence or short paargraph, but the reader does need to know their thoughts/feelings during that period.

  5. Just out of interest, I worked on the first night for Jenna and Guy this evening, and it went a totally different way than I'd anticipated. I LOVE it when the characters take over and sort it out for you!

  6. Connecting scenes and finding the right transitions can be tricky. It sounds like you have a handle on things! I love it when my characters talk to me and guide me in the right direction!