You're grinding the story to a halt! How to avoid boring your audience

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Travel should never simply be travel.

So often I hear a storyteller say:

“So I get into the car and drive the 12 miles to Joan’s house. When I arrive, I walk up to the door and ring the bell.”

This is not good. It’s terrible, in fact.

Essentially, it amounts to a scene in which the audience envisions the storyteller driving a dozen miles in a car while nothing else happens.

In cases like these, you have two choices:

  1. Eliminate the drive entirely. Instead, say something like, “Half an hour later, I’m ringing the doorbell.” Don’t even mention the car. An audience doesn’t need to know the method of transport. They want to know what happens next.
  2. Make the drive meaningful. Include some inner dialogue about what you’re thinking or how you’re feeling as you get closer and closer to that doorbell. Make predictions about what might happen after ringing that bell. Use the drive to provide backstory or context for all that is about to happen. Raise the stakes by mentioning possible future peril.

If the purpose of the scene is simply to indicate a move from A to B, you are grinding the story to a halt, exiting the land of entertainment, and probably boring your audience.

Travel should never simply be travel. Make it a meal, or clear it off the table entirely.

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