Lesson Eight from the Manuscript Red-Line: Magically Appearing Items in the Setting

For an intro into where these tips are coming from, please see my post: A Full Manuscript Rejection, or a Gold Mine?

This is really more like an amendment to Lesson Seven, but I figured I’d call it out separately, just to make it more clear.  In Lesson Seven, we discussed how important it is to make sure a character has a reason for doing what they do.

Also watch for “convenient” items popping up out of nowhere.  In a recent writers group meeting we discussed this very topic… making sure that a gun doesn’t suddenly appear in the glove compartment of an eighty year old grandmother from Ohio…  Silly things like that.

It is easy for a writer to place an item somewhere convenient…  but remember to give that item a reason for being there.

Example from my own manuscript:

Meagan has a candle in her room in the end of the novel.  It’s very important.  It’s never mentioned before, but I talk about it like it’s always been there.  I  caught mistake after digesting Lesson Seven.   I just can’t let the candle suddenly appear like that, and act like it’s always been there.

Convenient fix by me:  I needed a new chapter near the beginning of the novel, because I needed a place to SHOW that Meagan realizes that Magellan is supernatural.  (This is to avoid a “telly” section later).  I placed the scene in Meagan’s room, and actually used the candle as the driving force for that scene.  It worked wonderfully, and I killed two problems with one chapter in a neat little
package.  (And only about 550 words)

Like magically appearing characters, suddenly appearing items can be distracting, and make you lose credibility.  Give important items a reason for being where they are, and keep your settings fluid throughout your novel.

2 responses to “Lesson Eight from the Manuscript Red-Line: Magically Appearing Items in the Setting

  1. Pingback: Lesson Thirty from a Manuscript Red Line: Finale! Summing it all up | Jennifer M Eaton

  2. This a a great thing to add to my proofreading check list. The other side of this is to look for objects that appear early in the novel. Sometimes I place an item an a scene just to make the scene alive and later find out I need that article later in the story.

    In my second novel, my main protagonist is walking home from work. She carries pepper spray in her pocket. She lives in a ski resort and walks through a forest to get home. With the wildlife in the area, I thought it would be a good item for her to have in her pocket. It shows she prepares and plans for the environment she lives in. Later in the novel, she is assaulted, and what do you know, the pepper spray was in her pocket. How handy was that? I hadn’t even thought of the assault scene when I put the pepper spray in her pocket.