The Hansel and Grettel Effect

Blossoming Almond Grove by Vincent Van Gogh

Sometimes writing is like being lost in the woods.  If you lose sight of the path you are done for.  The current work in progress is like that.    Birds have eaten my bread crumbs and I don’t know the way home.  I am actually writing the  third ending for this tale.

The previous two endings ‘stunk like a skunk’.  Oh yes, they did take the tale to the end, but they didn’t give me that feeling of having a real finale; an ending that leaves you wanting to read more.  I like a tale that goes out with a bang, and makes you wish you knew more.  I think that I have finally gotten it right, and I have it outlined; but now I need to get it written.
It is always a balancing act.  How much information is necessary to tell the story?  How much is too much?  As a reader I love Robert Jordan, Tad Williams and J R R Tolkien because they were heavy on the backstory and that information was crucial to the stories they were telling.  However, many of my author friends point out, and rightly, that sometimes those same authors go for a walk in the woods and get lost.    This is why people either love or hate Robert Jordan.  All the side tales and little stories that I loved were quite annoying to others and with the trend toward short attention spans, it sometimes seems that the long and involved epic quests are falling out of favor with the reading public.
And yet, these same authors remain high on the best-sellers list. This tells me that there is still a market out there for the odd epic-quest tale, and that is certainly the sort of book I gravitate to.  When I write a book I always start with the question of what sort of book do I want to read?  That is the only gauge we have to go by, and in the end if I have written a story that only I will ever read then it is what it is.  Fantasy is a genre which has trends, and what is trendy now will be kicked to the curb when the next new thing comes along.  But the solid, well crafted tales will still be the benchmark that the genre aspires to.
The trick is to follow the path, and stay out of the witch’s oven.


Filed under Adventure, Battles, Books, Dragons, Fantasy, knights, Literature, mythology, Romance, Uncategorized, writer, writing

4 responses to “The Hansel and Grettel Effect

  1. Dr. Swartz

    I think the shift occurred when modern electronic media emerged as the primary source of entertainment. Previously, a thick book with many little stories inside the main story was a great diversion for people. Now it seems people want everything more streamlined. When’s the last time there was a miniseries on TV? Or even a regular two-hour made-for-TV movie like in previous decades. Just give us the main story and cut out all the fluff, say agents and editors. No digressions, no matter how clever. No flashbacks. No backstory explanation. Just of that advice is good, but in other ways we lose a lot with that recipe. Soon novels will be limited to 10K words because people won’t have the patience to slog through more. After that, written stories will be passe; everything will be a 3 minute trailer standing as the whole story…easily digested, easily disposed, ready for something new.


  2. Great blog as usual! I think if I had to choose the one, single most difficult yet most important element of telling a story it’s deciding what to reveal and when (is that two things?). In my mind, I imagine the story is like a photo covered with tiles and I pull one tile away to reveal just part of it to the reader with each chapter.


  3. Ditto, Gary. We all have our own, unique process of writing. Mine runs in my head like I’m watching a movie.


  4. I completely agree with the first commenter–is that Stephen? I think that revising as it’s done on word processors almost did away with the long, meandering, sometimes rambling tale–think the Victorians, or MOBY DICK. Would those be the same books if Melville could’ve cut some of his research dump? But certain genres, fantasy for one, do allow for a much fatter book. Maybe the key is knowing if you’re including something because your readers will genuinely love it–or because you do.