This is the second post regarding teaching myself to recognize Toing and Froing when I commit it (a most heinous act done by inept writers on hopeless prose, poetry (it’d be tough but I’m sure it can be done), scriptwriting, playwriting, (possibly) non-fiction, creative non-fiction, …).
And remember, folks, I’m including myself in the above. I’m writing this Toing and Froing arc to teach myself better writing techniques because I Toed and Froed like a marathon runner who’d lost their bearings while writing The Alibi chapter 3 (of my current work in progress which I’ll start posting in August 2022).
Toing and Froing occurs when the writer/author has their characters move around or do things for no real story purpose; there’s no character development, no character revelation, the atmosphere doesn’t change, no plot elements are furthered or revealed, the movement is irrelevant to any established or impending plot points, the movement is unnecessary to the dialogue, et cetera.
Toing and Froing Again, Part 1 ended with “My writing speed slows down,” meaning I’ve lost my rhythm, and I pick up from there…
Sometimes I slow a story down for no good reason.
There is a reason, simply not a good one.
I slow a story down because I feel the story’s moving too quickly towards…whatever. A scene break, a page break, a chapter break, a conclusion, a climax, a plot point, …
Consider the above three paragraphs. The first two are unnecessary. All three paragraphs can be combined into the much simpler “Sometimes I slow a story down because I feel the story’s moving too quickly towards…whatever. A scene break, a page break, a chapter break, a conclusion, a climax, a plot point, …”
The main reason to remove them is they violate the preceding section’s rhythm. Reread the opening of this post and pay attention to how you read it. Depending on how well I’ve done my job and how sensitive you are to your own internal workings, you’ll notice yourself moving forward through the writing. There should be no effort involved to read what is written.
There’s (hopefully) no effort because I write to a rhythm. That rhythm depends on the work itself. Some pieces are meant to be read at a quick march, some at a slow waltz, some are jive, some are tango. I work at creating a rhythm that non-consciously catches the reader and propels them through whatever they’re reading.
Writing to a rhythm is important. Readers tell me my stories all have a rhythm to them (and thankee. I work at it) and the rhythm keeps them moving through the story at an even pace. Doesn’t matter if the scene is action oriented or internal dialogue or narrative or pure exposition, there’s an overall rhythm to the story.
Lyrics 2, Dance 7
Older readers may remember American Bandstand. One of the show’s segments had some audience members listen to some music while other members danced. Once the particular song ended Dick Clark interviewed the listening members who voted on how good the music was; how were the lyrics? Was it danceable?
In writing, lyrics are the words on the page (or screen), music is the storycrafting (atmosphere, character, dialogue, description, exposition, language, mood, POV, scenes, setting, structure, style, tone, viewpoint, voice, and all else that goes into good storytelling), and dance is the rhythm of the writing. The goal is the reader pulled by the rhythm while listening to the music and lyrics.
And as is often said, ninety percent of the solution is recognizing the problem exists.
Next up, the problem and a solution.