Building the “Connective Tissue” of a Book

July 25, 2019 by: Douglas

Hello writers and readers! Today’s informative blog is aimed at both of you, but especially those who are thinking of writing. It was inspired by a scene I’m currently writing for one of my novels.

 

I call these particular scenes, “connective tissue”. (If there is a literary word for it, I haven’t found a good example.) Maybe it is due to my medical background, but that’s how I see certain passages of text in a story. Think of major plot points of a book as being the major organs in the body of a book. Somehow, you have to connect those points together, and that part is the connective tissue. These portions of a book provide transition, bridging the space and time between plot turns. Sometimes, these parts of a story can be quite large.

 

Therein lies a trap. You see, this connective tissue helps take the reader through a place where one might introduce story development that would otherwise slow down major plot points or be inappropriate during fast-paced scenes. The concern is that these scenes may slow the pace too much. Things like an “info dump” could be a type of disruptive connective tissue. However, the writer can weave info into dialogue, body language, character interactions, etc, to use the slower-but-necessary connective scenes to their best potential.

 

If connective scenes incorporate information through dialogue, give background info passed along in character interactions, or subtly sprinkle plot points, then they can become main plot pieces in their own right. Think of these scenes like your editor would view them. What do they contribute? How do they forward the plot or the characters? Is there something here that would be more beneficial elsewhere in the story? What can fit here? Should it be cut due to pacing?

 

Consider the current scene I’m writing for “Apprentice Storm-Mage”. I know there is a major plot turn coming up, and it needs a big emotional impact for the reader, because it will deeply affect the protagonist. Unfortunately, if I jump straight to the scene, I’m going to miss out on some of that impact. You ask why? The scene relies on an emotional connection between her and characters she met earlier. However, the earlier scene was near the start of the book, and interactions with these characters were sparse due to the necessary action and pacing to keep the more introductory scene cruising along. Therefore, we need a necessary slower scene in the book which gives us a little more time to better acquaint these characters to each other for the benefit of the later impact. It doesn’t have to be long, yet it gives me the opportunity to drop into further character development. This has the side benefit of being more attractive to a reader as well. Strong characters can give the reader more attachment than a strong story.

 

During “Inheritance of a Sword and a Path”, the protagonists go on a magical flight. It gave an opportunity for them to fly over some of their previous path, giving them time to recollect events earlier in the book. I noticed the scene was about half a chapter long, with rather firmly designed chapters with specific focuses going on before and after. So, cut or fill space? In the end, I added some magic. In that case, I wanted the reader to have a relaxing moment with the characters and reiterate the nature of a fantasy world….prior to a build up to more action. I added a scene in which they fly over a unicorn herd. This scene allowed me to add more character interactions, help show a soft side to my gruff dwarf warrior, and simply relax the reader in a fun, playful moment in a story that was otherwise filled with worries. To my surprise, months after it was published I came across a book on unicorns in media. Their work actually quoted from my book and gave me due credit on the page. Amazing how an optional added scene gave me a little extra early exposure.

 

When I say pace, don’t ever let your story slow down too much. I’ve seen bad connective pieces in which every little nuance of a character’s actions were explained, and it contributed nothing to a story. An editor once complained to me of someone’s writing which went like this: He stood up. He turned to grab his coat off the chair. It was still damp. A frown. He folded it over his arm instead. He found his keys in the pocket. He thumbed through to find the right one. He took a step, then another. Apparently, this stuttered narrative went on for a long time without actually getting anywhere. Long story short, (too late!), every portion of your narrative has to drive the story along.

 

In conclusion, most books take their shape around big plot points with well-defined scenes, but we still have to connect those scenes with less-immediately-clear transition pieces. Try to find a way to balance these connective parts with needed storyline and character development which may have trouble fitting in elsewhere. Elevate these slower pace moments to a plot device in their own right by packing it with something to make it indispensable and memorable for the reader.