Friday, January 21, 2011

Even the Really Good...

...Sometimes make mistakes. Usually not great big giant hairy mistakes, but they're there. Here's a common one I just stumbled across:

The scene is tense. A father has come in to do a photo identification on a body. It might be his son. The police detective opens an envelope and lays two photos on the table in the interview room. *Tense pause here*

And then the other detective in the room looks at the pictures, and we hear what the dead man looks like, what the detective thinks about him and the father and the situation. It's great writing, and probably only goes on for a paragraph or two, but it doesn't belong there.

Give us the father's reaction. Is it his son or not? A bit of description would be fine, a pause for suspense would be appropriate, but this went on several beats too long. It's subtle, it's a pacing issue, but for a half a page the writer got a bit too caught up in his extremely good writing to get to the increasingly urgent point. It made the writing stand out at the expense of the story.

Was the body really the man's son? Not sayin'.

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