Trying to Rush the Story

I don’t know about you, but there is a point in my stories where I am solidly down the road and want to see the end. It is at that point that I must be most careful otherwise I rush through scenes that should get a lot more attention.

That fact became extremely obvious in my current edits. The first part of the book has very few places where I need to add detail or rewrite a scene. The second part of the book needs quite a bit more attention.

I think my biggest sin has been thinking a problem can be resolved in a single effort.

I should know better. Any problem I’ve ever faced has rarely been fixed satisfactorally the first time I tried. Usually, I’ve done what I thought would most easily get things back on track. Then, something else would come up that would need some additional work. If people were in the mix, it was that much harder.

So, why would I expect my character to be any different?

As my editor has said in his comments, the struggle invokes several things: action, tension and more investment from the reader. For example, I have a plot thread where my protagonist, Mik, is bullied by a girl who just moved into town. Mik is a pretty laid back guy and doesn’t quite understand what is going on. He apologizes for the perceived slight to the girl but it doesn’t fix the problem. In fact, things get worse.

So, he does his best to deal with the problem. He avoids the confrontations initially but she manages to catch him alone and he stands his ground. In the edited version of the draft, they have a showdown which he wins. She backs off and never bothers him again.

Except, in real life, that probably wouldn’t happen. By ending the conflict so quickly, the reader doesn’t really get a chance to cheer for Mik and boo the girl. It is too much of a cowboy ending where everything is resolved after the final gunfight.

I added a brand new chapter that sees things escalate rapidly after that showdown. The girl begins a campaign to discredit Mik and ultimately frames him and gets him tossed out of school. Mik could take revenge, but he is supposed to be a superhero, right? Instead, he does what he thinks is right and the girl gets caught in her own web of lies after going one step too far.

By adding the scene, we get a better glimpse of Mik’s character and inner struggles. We also have a chance to find a character to root against (and for) AND we see a situation that is more in keeping with reality.

I suspect I’ll have a few more of those show up as I continue to go through the edits.

It’s a great lesson for me though. Don’t try to go too quickly and miss those opportunities. Expand on them instead and take advantage of the story-telling opportunities.

How about you? Have you ever caught yourself rushing your stories?



  1. I believe stories are never finished, just abandoned…I find myself guilty of many “cowboy endings”. Love that phrase! I find that I’ll wait awhile and then go back and edit the crap out of it before abandoning it again, repeating cycle many times.

  2. The “cowboy ending” happens all the time in my stories. In some manner it resembles the scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark where Harrison Ford’s character is confronted by the sword-yielding Arab warrior in the marketplace and just shoots him. In the movie, greatly humorous because of the unexpected profanity from the ‘hero’ and his extremely unheroic, pragmatic action. It has its place.

    Slightly more introspective, neither my reader nor I, the author, for that matter, has the ‘right’ to expose our protagonist, or anyone else for that matter, to a detailed character examination and personality analysis without the character’s ‘permission’, just like in real life. This sounds extremely stupid having just written it, but my characters expose themselves by their words and actions at ‘their’ discretion. After all, I just provide the playing field and the moving pen: the characters are perfectly capable of revealing themselves as they wish.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.