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  • Writer's pictureD. Randall Faro

Balancing Act

There are websites aplenty listing and describing the various fiction novel genres. In listing categories, they go all the way from a basic fifteen to, in one case, one hundred and forty-four.

Different guidelines apply to differing genres, while at the same time sharing some baseline commonalities. The following remarks apply to the genre we shall call Adventure or Action-Adventure.

There is also an abundance of internet comment on the elements of the Adventure novel. General agreement favors three aspects of such: description, dialogue, and action. An author’s task is to balance these three in a way that both tells the story well and guards against reader boredom. Overuse or underuse of any one of them can spoil the effort. Teachers of creative writing come at this from a variety of angles, but the general agreement for the Adventure genre is for weight to be given to action, dialogue, and description . . . in that order.

My purpose here is caution on the overabundant use of description. I am currently struggling to complete a book by a well-known author of over fifty novels. The name of the book and author are not revealed to protect the guilty. The novel, which is a cops-and-criminals, good-and-bad-guys story, has lots of four and five star ratings on the internet, so it apparently does not bother some people. But the garish overuse of description makes the reading tedious and boring. A character spouts a one-sentence line which is then followed by two pages of description before another person responds with one sentence, followed by another page or two of description. This happens over and over throughout the book. I find myself skipping over large sections just to get to the next character’s comment, or action of some kind that brings some liveliness to the slow pace of this crime story.

Some description is needed in every novel, but overdoing it can easily slow down an Action-Adventure story to a turtle pace . . . and lose readers in the process.

Balancing acts are always tricky. Find the right combination of the three aspects of fiction writing is one of the tricks of the trade.

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