On the Page


     I have an issue with communicating effectively.

     Over the course of two decades my wife has struggled to get me to understand that just because I’m thinking about something, it doesn’t mean that anyone else is following that same line of thought. Or, if I’m done with a conversation, that doesn’t necessarily mean the other person is finished with it.

     This issue – and I know this won’t come as a surprise – has carried over to the written word, and it is still a problem I struggle with.

     When I write longer works, I tend to be more organic in my approach. Events unfold, characters develop. While I may have seen a particular resolution to a problem thousands of words earlier, it doesn’t mean I made mention of it. There’s no groundwork for a reader to fall back on and say, Oh, yeah, I remember that!

     This has led to some rather lengthy rewrites when it comes to editing work, and as I progress with my writing, I am attempting to create less deus ex machina scenarios.

     My editors and readers have been wonderful in helping me with this, and I’m hoping to save you years of struggle and frustration by telling you this: if you want a reader to know about it in the end, make sure you put it in the story before that point.

     Let’s look at it this way: Character A, on page 255 of a 260-page book, suddenly pulls out a .38 caliber pistol and frees himself from the villain, thus saving the day.

     Great, we all love to see the hero win.

     There are only a few questions that should be answered before this scene is written: first, does Character A have any familiarity with firearms; second, where did Character A obtain said firearm from; and third, and perhaps most important, is this in keeping with Character A’s, well, character?

     If you mention, or seed, your story with a few well-placed references to Character A’s high school days of target shooting, great. You’ve established a background in firearms for that character. Then, if you say the character has in his possession his father’s old service revolver or perhaps managed to acquire one as a gift or in a sale, you show that the character has the weapon. And, finally, does Character A have the wherewithal to point a loaded firearm at someone and be prepared to pull the trigger?

     These are all important aspects of a character that need to be put down on the page, long before you reach the climax of your work.

     As I said, I learned this the hard way, and I know you’re a hell of a lot smarter than me.

Keep writing!


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Nicholas Efstathiou

Husband, father, and writer.

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