My Dave Mason police procedural series is about the Santa Monica Police Department and the city itself, a tourist destination with a colorful background, present, and future.
I love Santa Monica, but will others care that much? What is critical information for me, the story teller, and a historical aside to someone else? I wrote this checklist when I got a vicious review calling Rip-Off, my latest book, a clever plot with too many characters and too much background. I don’t agree, but I’m open enough to learn from experience. Maybe these questions will help another writer.
• What’s my main story? Think of as smooth, linear narrative and then think of a python with a big expository lump coming through.
• Can I fix it so something happens in the story while the data dump is downloading?
• Is this a section in which nothing happens but I’ve written a lot of expository information to bring the reader up to date?
• How can I rewrite this until I can get across that information—and make the story progress at the same time?
• Can my character have a good reason to explain all this to someone else?
• Can my character read this info in a report, see it on TV, do an internet search?
• Can I do this in dialogue while something exciting is taking place?
• How can I show this rather than telling it?
• How can I reveal the critical information a little at a time by creating tantalizing hints?
• Could I leave this out? Is this important? Am I sure?
• If it’s important, does it need to be told now? Can it wait?
• Is this much description of the setting necessary? Why?
• Is this a personal rant? Some passionate opinion I just have to get in somehow?
• Is my reader an idiot? If not, how hard do I want a reader to have to work?