What I am dubbing the “Circular Story” is not about a well rounded story that covers all the subplots and has a fantastic plot line that ends similar to how it began. Nope. I’m meaning those stories that seem to keep circling around the same topic and never seem to move along with the actual story or gets to the plot.
If you haven’t come across one of these books, then picture a family member or an annoying friend who had received some honor at work and for that first month, that was all they could talk about. After hearing the same story repeated four or more times in a row, you get sick of hearing it. You’re happy for that person, but ugh.
I’m sure several of us have read these type of books. Very few can use the same argument or same conversation (over and over and over again) to their advantage (the movie Groundhogs Day, for example), but a huge majority of these stories seem as if the author is beating a dead horse. I tend to start scanning the book to seek out where the story starts moving again, and if I can’t immediately find it within the next few pages, it becomes a very difficult book for me to get back into. Sometimes, I stop reading altogether.
Things to look for in your book:
- Does your characters have the same conversation/topic repeat more than once within your book?
- Does the same situation (event, battle, meetings) occur?
- If a mystery, how many times does the detective repeat the clues throughout the book?
How to fix it:
- Repeated conversations can work if there is more information or if it is in a thought process expanding the details to move the plot along. But if it is of two character’s arguing and one character has apologized several times, but yet the other character keeps coming back that the other has lied. This argument gets old. There is only so many times a person will typically apologize in person before giving up and storming from the room or the other reveals more of why the lying bothered them so much in the first place. Don’t make the same argument go on for multiple pages or keep reappearing throughout the novel. Your plot needs to keep moving to the climax. If the characters can’t resolve their conflict, make them rivals. Or have them agree to disagree.
- I know locations are important in books as they are in real life, but I what I mean by the same situation reoccurring is for the same conflict arises each time the characters return to the scene. Example: woman feeling like someone is watching her every time she walks out to her car after a late night shift. If it is that situation, you need to explain why she feels that way, or insert a noise that makes her scared. Or plan to create shadows or an actual character passing by to frighten her. This situation can be repeated a couple of times just to establish that she has a reason for the fear, but keep it short and simple until you plan on revealing something major a that shadow or character. Don’t make your readers predict what is going to happen just because you arrived at the same place. Give it a plot twist.
- If you’re writing a romance novel and want a good plot twist – do something similar to what Disney Frozen did – don’t have the princess fall for the prince at the end. Go for an unlikely character that ends up being a prefect match. Maybe the best friend of the initial love interest or so forth.
- This goes along with the repeated conversation, but it also carries into the narration of the story as well. Don’t repeat yourself more than needed. Take that detective – he doesn’t need to repeat each clue to everyone he comes in to contact with each time something happens. Or, for the narrator, don’t keep repeating each step of the plot as each new scene unfolds. That becomes filler for the story and slows the plot down. You can shorten it to saying that the detective met with the task force to discuss the new findings. Simple and done.
You need to focus on moving your plot along. The longer the character’s stand still or circles around the same topic, the slower your story becomes. It makes it harder for the reader to be invested in your work and to remember the details that point to the climax.
L. R. Mauck
(Please forgive any mistakes. I wrote this late last night and am too tired to proof read.)