I Don’t Want to Eat My Broccoli

My primary writing gig is non-fiction. This requires some writing which could be framed as “eat your broccoli, it’s good for you.” Should this apply to fiction, as well?

Sometimes it’s a paragraph or two that feels like repeating the obvious. It’s obvious to me, isn’t it obvious to my readers? (Answer: Nope. That’s why they’re my readers.)

Sometimes it feels like a legalistic nod to the scope of the technology I’m writing about. Words like “impossible” and “never” have to be cast as “super-duper unlikely” and “rarely in recorded history” kinds of waffling. “Always” becomes “every time you do this until you’re an expert and can see that ‘always’ doesn’t always mean always.”

I’ve been struggling with the first few chapters of the Initiation part of a Hero’s Journey. The Departures seem to be easier for me — the bad guys are involved and the Hero has no choice.

The Initiation, though. Entering the dark place. This is trickier because it needs to be an acknowledged choice. Which means arguments.

In this book, I’m stretching out a little, and trying to make the dark place more complicated. In other books there was injustice and the choices were stark. In this book, I don’t want the injustice to surface right away.

I wrote (and discarded) mountains of stuff. Maybe 10,000 words are scattered around various part of Scrivener, waiting for this to fall into a shape that fits the general plan.

The problem?

I was treating it like eating my broccoli. 

There’s the City of Fear. There’s stuff in there. Some people have reliable information. Three key points, right?


Let’s delete the exposition of three key points through lots of arguing. Let's treat it like a secondary Departure stage of the journey. Bad guys. Sword fight. Bodies to hide. That’s more like it. Crank up the Red Knight’s body count and the Initiation becomes necessary for the Mage and the Red Knight.

The Mage's choice is more nuanced. It’s not “when should we go to the City of Fear?” It’s “How can we get there before the mercenaries catch up with us?” Much more fun.

Forget the broccoli. Bring on some donuts. I need to fortify myself with a sugar and adrenaline rush.

 © F. L. Stevens 2019