re: What To Do When Your Story Feels “Rushed”

in Characterization/General fiction by

Dear Editor…

My readers are pretty unanimous in their love for my characters, but some say the story feels rushed. I don’t know what to do with this feedback. Any advice?

Thanks,
Anon.

Dear Anon….

Consistent positive response to the characters tells me you’ve developed your character arcs well, so the events in the plot are probably well chosen and executed, and your characterization must be strong to engender such loyalty. I suspect your storytelling is heavy on dialogue and action but lacks depth that makes readers feel fully satisfied when they reach “The End.” It’s the difference between a sweet dessert and a rich one—both are yummy, but only the latter has you walking away from the table feeling full. You can enrich your story by doing a world-building revision pass. I don’t mean dropping in a bunch of setting descriptions to slow the reading. Rather, work in setting details with language that conveys an atmosphere, have the characters act upon and react to props unique to the spirit of that place, and include smells and textures that engage readers’ senses. This enriches the reading experience, making it feel full instead of breezy.

Happy writing!
The Editor

4 Comments

  1. I think sometimes rushed also means that some events are summarized instead of fully playing out on screen.

    You might also look at the consequences of significant plot turns. Have you slowed down a bit in key spots and let your main character experience a response of appropriate depth to the event? Turning points change characters. Maybe they don’t always notice at the time, but there should still be *some* events that require time to resonate or digest or recognize. A big reveal moment, a betrayal, a moment to gather courage to meet the challenge of the climax…just make sure those reactions are there.

  2. Totally agree with what Dear Editor and Rose said, but also look at scene climaxes. If I rush in early drafts it’s usually because I’m not building enough to the climaxes–not necessarily the main story arc climaxes, but dramatic moments within chapters. If Anon can’t see where s/he has “rushed” then suggest Anon get a professional critique and specifically ask the critiquer to mark areas where the scenes need to be extended or fleshed out more. All terms meaning the scenes are rushed.

  3. Our friendly neighborhood Dear Editor gave me this same advice a while back. Having characters react more to their settings. It was and is good advice. But if everyone loves your characters, well done! That’s a huge part of the battle.

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