Thursday, February 28, 2013
EVERYTHING BUT THE KITCHEN SINK by Rita Karnopp
I think back to when I was a novice writer . . . and how intimidating it was to not know what I should or should not write about. Oh, I don’t mean a plot or subject matter. You know . . . those clichés and language tags. I was told every character needed a tag, like Scarlet had Fiddle de Dee in Gone With the Wind. When a tag is overdone, it’s even worse than never having had one.
The same theory coincides with putting every great idea or clever bit of information you’ve been saving for a book. You know what I mean, don’t you? That data bank of cool, clever and unusual historical facts or the stories Great Grandma and Grandpa told you parents, and you thought, hmmm . . . I should put that in a book.
Agents and editors have a sixth sense when it comes to what has become known as the kitchen-sink novel.
I read a book where heroine, who was a history professor, loved sharing historical tid-bits every chance she got. I think I got ten history lessons by the time I finished the book. This information overload will kill a story. It’s my guess the author loves history and sharing it . . . just don’t do it all in one book.
Another way the kitchen-sink attitude affects a book is if every character has something ‘unusual’ or ‘special’ to share. For instance, the heroine shares her expertise on how crystals are formed, the hero shares his infinite knowledge on the Lewis and Clark travels, and then the villain comes along with a plethora of information on the constellation and how it controls his actions. A reader just can’t get to the plot of the story with so much information.
Maybe you create a character that wears a nineteen-twenties detective hat that has a great history, and you mention it several times because to you it’s a great item. Well, if your character is not a detective, why the hat? Don’t throw these red-herrings into your story unless they hold some meaning and further the story. The item maybe colorful and quaint, but if it has no bearing on the story, it shouldn’t be in it. Always ask yourself if it serves a purpose other than you like it and it has a history.
Another kind of kitchen-sink novel is the one word rule. Don’t make a tag so dominate that the reader starts cringing every time it’s mentioned. A detective in another book always said ‘bloody’ for a tag. ‘Bloody good,’ bloody hell,’ ‘bloody straight,’ etc. I never finished the book.
Using a kitchen-sink scene suggests the author’s immaturity, and will be noted by agents and editors and unfortunately your readers.
I suggest you put your best material in a book, but leave the kitchen sink in the kitchen. We are all tempted to put these ‘gems’ into our stories, we love them so why won’t our reader, but use restraint. Better yet, put them in when you first write the story, and remove them when you revise. You’ll get it out of your system and you’ll realize during the revision – it’s best left out of the book.
Oh, do make sure to put interesting facts in your book, just make sure it serves a purpose, furthers the story, or is ‘key’ to solving the plot. We all love to be surprised by that crucial piece of information we missed, and weren’t hit over the head with.