In my family Sunday is time to gather at the dining room table to carve the meat, slice the bread, scoop the pasta and pour sauce over everything. ( or is it gravy?) Of course while everything is being prepped, it is also time to “discuss” who is late, who is not coming, who is sitting where, who wants the pink, red or blue cup and who no longer eats meat, bread, pasta or who the sauce repeats on. As the cook I ignore everyone and bring everything to the table as I stand at the kitchen sink eating my meal ready to get a jump-start on the dishes.
My back is turned and dishes are strategically placed in the dish rack, like a well-played game of Tetris while the “discussion” turns to who can do what better, who was the worst/best child and who is raising the best/worst child, who owes who money and well… who annoyed who! To my delight silence fills the air as the non meat-eating, no pasta or bread and no sauce consumers clear their plates and leave little left for the late comers. As this all orchestrates on behind me I feel the urge to turn around and throw a dish at the ingrates and tell them we heard the same “discussion” last week. Lucky for them my characters distracted me!
I felt as thought my characters were getting a bit redundant. Sunday dinner provided clarity that redundancy creates familiarity and helps readers see how characters can move forward.
I know the readers are capable of digesting that my youngest character is in a situation that he should not understand, and that he just needs his mom. They know he has no control over how much is placed upon his plate. He only has control of how long it takes him to clear his plate; if at all. He can laugh or cry when he feels the urge not when a reader thinks he ought to. The oldest character earned the right to receive the best cut of meat. Just because it was written that he is a bit of a hard ass, readers should know how he was hardened and see how he softens.
As half of my body was in the oven scraping drippings off , I understood that readers have a firm grasp on emotions too. They will see my main character is not week or strong she is a mother on a mission. She does not need to justify every emotion, even if the reader is not a mother they will understand why she does what she does. As I carefully counted the coffee scoops for the percolator I realized that readers do not need to know every little detail like how many scoops go into a full pot (10 scoops if you’re wondering) they only need to know it was a full piping hot-pot of strong coffee.
While I wrapped the left overs in takeout food containers (well come on!, I am not about to let anyone leave with the good Tupperware) it came to me that no one cares what the food is in as long as they are leaving with lunch for the next day or a midnight snack. It was clear to me that readers don’t need or want to know the name of the manufacturer who made the knife my character used to commit a crime; they just need to know who committed the crime ,what was used to commit the crime, who it was perpetrated on and why.
By the end of the Sunday dinner and as I hugged, kissed and walked the little ones to the car to steal one last hug . I knew that by the time readers got to the end of my story they would not care which character ate the meat, bread, pasta or sauce. Readers only want to fill up on the juicy details , devour the repercussions and savor the last chapter as if it were their very own piece of the pie. And if I’m lucky the reader will save enough room to digest my next book.