Tune Out the Noise
You’re browsing the Internet. You’re looking for a snippet of information. You find a related site that could perhaps hold that snippet that you’re looking for. So what do you do next? You scan. You allow your eyes to scan over the material.
Your mind is saying, “Knew that. Knew that. Knew that.” What’s happening? Because you are already familiar with these facts, it becomes noise to your mind – to your brain. What do you do with the noise? You tune it out.
Now back to the scanning process. Enough knew that’s and you will click out. Or, if you’re really lucky, you will experience a viola! moment. “Aha. I didn’t know that.”
The scanning stops; the noise stops; your attention is caught. You’ve found the snippet of information you’ve been looking for.
Noise to the Reader
What does this have to do with writing a novel? Just this.
A novel filled with generalities that are already common knowledge – that offer no new information — those generalities tend to become noise to your reader. The temptation to let the eye scan over noise is strong.
If your character is labeled as:
chances are, the reader’s attention will wander. Such weak descriptions are as common as dirt. Reader has seen them a bazillion times.
The art of creating unique, one-of-a-kind characters that jump off the page will serve as information for the reader. She most certainly didn’t know that!
Need for Enthusiasm
What is it then that separates information from noise? Most often it is enthusiasm. By that I mean your enthusiasm (you as novelist) for your novel, for your subject matter, for your plot, for your characters. The more enthused you are, the less you will generalize and the more you will spin out captivating information.
Ever sit in a classroom taught by a teacher or professor who is on information-overload, yet suffers from enthusiasm deficit? I have. I’m sure you have too. What’s the result? Dull, dull, dull. Or put another way noise. What happens to noise? We tune it out. (Lots of sleepy students in that classroom.)
Mundane Subjects Become Interesting
The novelist who is passionate about what is being written can make even the most mundane of subjects interesting, informative, and captivating. Informative alone won’t cut it. You can know all about your subject matter, and write like a textbook. Thus even the most in-depth research will be useless if there is no passion in the technique used to present that research material in the novel.
If you know a great deal about a subject but are not passionately interested in it, you’ll put people to sleep. Similar to the aforementioned professor. Authentic–sounding details of an occupation, or details of a location in your setting, will help increase the information density of your story. (i.e. less tuning out.)
In the opening scenes of Tulsa Trespass (#3 in the Tulsa Series), Tessa is employed as a sales clerk in the dry goods section of a department store. It’s a hot day in August of 1921. By using details of heavy bolts of fabric, a McCall’s pattern, mention of rick rack trim, and embroidery thread taken from the case, I offer bits of information are new to most readers. Woven in with action scenes and dialogue they work to pull in reader attention and hold it. No noise, but rather information.
Use of such information helps create the illusion that this story takes place in a real world. Additionally, it gives the reader confidence that you know what you’re writing about.
When your novel is completed and you move into the revision aspect of novel writing, check to be sure that you have avoided using general labels; that you have avoided paragraphs of inert setting descriptions (just the facts, ma’am); and that you have avoided a lifeless (passionless) tone overall.
The questions to ask yourself are:
- “If I’m not passionate about this story, this plot, these characters, how can I expect my reader to be?”
- “If I’m not passionate about this story, this plot, these characters, why am I writing this novel in the first place?”
Your heartfelt passion emanating from your passionate novelist’s heart will enable you to write compelling information, and to cull out the noise.
Re-release of the third book in my Tulsa Series (Tulsa Trespass), originally published by Barbour Publishing in 1995, now available on Kindle and Nook. Tulsa Trespass is historical fiction set against the backdrop of the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot. Check it out HERE.