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Writing Filler: The biggest issue in writing.

Discussion in 'Creative Zone' started by dearsoldier, Jul 8, 2021.

  1. dearsoldier

    Level 9
    Feb 6, 2015
    I should clarify what I define as "Filler" before I continue this post. Filler in my definition is something in a form of media (stories in this case) that bloat the piece of media to the point where it would be better without it. In a lot of instances general character and world building is considered to be filler by some critics of my and many of my colleagues work.

    While I cannot speak for everybody in this thread I'm making this post to bring to light an issue I see many a writer make (yes even people I consider some of the best writers.)

    With this in mind please enjoy the thread (feedback is always welcome).

    In all of my years as a writer and editor there is one issue that I seem to see with most stories that I both read and edit.

    And that issue is filler,

    While it does have the capability in very small amounts to assist in leading to a bigger linking plot point in the story but in a majority of cases make a portion of or in some egregious cases an entire story fall flat.

    Some things that are going to have a little bit of filler in a lot of cases are usually things like the transitions between major plot points or after a major battle. This is done to relieve tension off of the reader and is a good way to lead into character building if done right.

    A particular instance that I can personally remember was in a story I read online called Ventura's Polarity. After a Particularly major fight where our protagonist Maple was left in the hospital he gets a text message from a close female friend who was one of the people involved in the conflict that she would be meeting him after he left the hospital that night for dinner. He gets released early and takes a walk to the store where the two of them run into each other and the conflict between the two creates one of the biggest plot points in the story.

    This is a case of filler being used to work out a way to transition away from one event to another in the story in an uncertain way. While this is common you often see the story being brought to a halt as the writer doesn't capitalize on the scene they have just created. If this is however done right it becomes more of a change of scenery than anything else.

    On the other hand we have instances where everything comes to a halt often with no warning or in the worst possible areas for some reason that will never make sense in terms of the story that is unfolding before your eyes.

    A instance that truly developed my stance to the way it is today was back in 2016 when I checked into a writer (Who I still truly respect to this day) Who goes by the pen name "Hit the Jack" online profile on a particular writing service I used during this time. He had posted a new story to his page that was called "Dice Checks" which was about a car dealer who by night was an active dealer in an illegal blackjack ring in his town. After a particularly eventful previous 2 chapters of people involved with various criminal organizations robbing both our protagonist it turns to a chapter of the protagonist and his family going swimming at the pool in the town next to theirs just to mostly avoid people looking for him.

    The way it was handled however way you explain it was god awful and the chapters after it didn't help recover the pace of the story. A sharp reminder that stupid decisions can very much impact your story.

    My Biggest advice on the regard of filler is to think and look back on what you had already posted for your work. If it sounds more like the latter then it is certainly time to reconsider the direction of the story and I mean this out of the bottom of my heart that it will certainly help make the quality of your works better.
    NyxieRina likes this.
  2. Darcy

    Darcy Strongest Blade in Valor

    Level 20
    Dec 11, 2016
    Philosopher's CowlPsychium Z ★★★★Gardevoirite ★★★★Galladite ★★★★Heart Scale ★★
    I agree with a lot of the points here, but let's talk a bit more about what to do about filler. The above advice is a good starting point. However, what if you're a writer and you want to include your protagonist going out of town with his family to the pool? You should just cut it because it isn't serving the plot, right? Not exactly. Those slower moments in the story should serve a purpose. They can act as transition points, yes, but not every scene of a story needs to advance the main plot. A break in the story is a great opportunity to get insight into a character or do some worldbuilding.

    So how do you effectively eliminate filler? Write scenes with purpose. Consider what just happened in your story, how it's affecting your character(s), and what they want now. Knowing that is key to avoiding meaningless scenes.

    Let's return to our criminal going to the pool example. I haven't read the story in question, but we can discuss it as a theoretical. Your protagonist is in some deep trouble with some powerful people. They probably want revenge, but have lost most of what they had and need to lay low. Leaving town is a smart idea, but let's add more logistics to it. You could have your protagonist have a family member in the town over, or perhaps a friend, that they can hide with. This individual could have the resources the protagonist needs to make their next steps. But what about my pool scene? Let's add another layer. Perhaps your protagonist has a child they need to look after who doesn't fully understand what's going on. The child is upset, probably frightened, and definitely bored to tears. The protagonist is worried about being seen, but they need to cheer up their kid and it is a sweltering day without AC... So they take the kid to the pool. A section like this now has multiple purposes: establishing a means for the protagonist to act on their motivation, adding conflict between characters, and providing insight into your badass protagonist. If it still feels like it's not enough for you, your protagonist may be recognized at the pool. How does their family being threatened change things? There's a lot of potential there.

    I think the greatest error new writers make is treating their characters like chess pieces to progress the plot. Personally, I don't think this approach works. Worlds don't breathe on their own, your characters do. They should be at the center of your writing decisions especially when writing minor scenes. Do that, and it should be easier to avoid the dreaded filler.
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    NyxieRina likes this.

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