Lesson Seven from a Manuscript Red-Line: Where did that character come from?

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

This is another comment that seems silly when you say it, but when I was thinking over my own manuscript (and one of the comments that a BP made that I blew off) I think I may have one of these mistakes, too.

The publisher red-lined a scene where the phone rings, and there is a conversation, but it is never really clear why the second character called in the first place.  Yes, some important information is exchanged during the conversation, but the reason for the original call is never made clear enough.
The comment from the publisher was that all actions must have a reason from the character that created that action in the first place.

Now, thinking over my own manuscript… There is a point where Magellan and Meagan are in the Aviary when the lights go out.  They are worried about Jerric, who is also in the aviary.  Meagan calls out his name, and Jerric steps out of the bushes and says “I’m right here.”

One of my BP’s said: “that is awfully convenient.”

I think this is pretty much the same thing as the comment above.  There needs to be a reason for him to be there.  Honestly, there is.  He is watching them.  The problem is, I never SAY that, so there is never actually a reason (in the reader’s mind) for him to be able to step out of the trees so easily.

So, where I  “blew off” that comment before, because I knew why he stepped out of the trees, now I am going back to make it more apparent that he was standing there and listening.  I have to let the reader know why it is so easy for him to step out of the trees.

Always make sure there is a reason for your characters to be where they are, and a reason for them doing what they do.  Other wise, as this publisher puts it, it  ends up sounding “contrived” or, as my BP put it “too convenient.”

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8 responses to “Lesson Seven from a Manuscript Red-Line: Where did that character come from?

  1. This is such an easy trap to fall into because we have so much more information in our heads than can ever reach the written page. But we have to remember to give the reader what they need for the story to hold together and be plausible!

  2. I may be old but I’m still a novice in the writing field. I’ve been making sure that every action I create in my story has a reason and is stated. I think this is one of those things that is more likely to slip the mind of a pro than someone like me. Even so, until I read this post, I was thinking that my story was beginning to look retarded because I’m making sure of the reason being in there. I thought that I might not be giving the reader enough credit for smarts.

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  4. ttGreat advice sometimes comes just when you need it. Thank you 🙂

  5. Hmm. Must comb through to look for snags. Thanks, Jennifer.