Thursday, January 28, 2010

Packing Peanuts

This post is also related to the movie Stranger Than Fiction. And, I'm once again going to quote Dustin Hoffman's character, who amused me way too much. "Meeting an insurance agent the day your policy runs out is a coincidence. Getting a letter from the emperor saying he's visiting is plot. Getting your apartment eaten by a wrecking ball is something else entirely."

First of all, I've never had any domicile of mine consumed by any piece of heavy machinery, so I don't know if I'd consider it a plot-esque moment if it happened to me, but I'd probably call it 'something else,' too.

My alpha calls the 'something else' filler. (I do not dispute that there can be other varieties of 'something else,' however, I'm going to discuss the filler aspect only in this post.) Well, filler has never been something I'm super good at, but it's actually much more important than it sounds.

Filler is the stuff that happens in between Big Events. Not everything that happens in the story can be a Big Event. There has to be some lower key things to balance it all out, otherwise your Big Events won't look so big anymore. Also, it smooths things out between Big Events, so it doesn't feel like you're bouncing from Event to Event. It eases the transition.

The filler can be a subplot or a minor story arc created for the purpose of filling the time. As long as it gives the reader something to think about betwixt the more important things you really want their attention on.

One of my favorite examples of filler material is pretty much all of the Quidditch stuff in Harry Potter. (I remember a while ago, someone mentioned in the comments section that they hadn't been able to figure out what the purpose of the Quidditch was. I'm sorry I've misplaced your name in my mind, however I am remembering you as I type this.) They might not be furthering the main plot or any of the major subplots; however, they are interesting to the readers and are something the reader can focus on while time has to pass and things have to stew.

I'm not so good at the filler stuff. I do the bouncy-bouncy thing with my Big Events, probably because it's the Events that come to me. I have to find the fill-in-the-blanks stuff along the way to get from A to B and hopefully all the way to Z eventually. But I know I need to get better at it. Otherwise, I might just leave my reader feeling like I'm racketing them from point to point.

How do you feel about filler? Do you use enough of it/not enough of it? Do you like it in books? If so, what kinds?


  1. I think filler for me are the sub-plots I weave in and around the main plot in any of the stories I write. Like I said yesterday I have a main, then I have a lesser or two.

    Like you pointed out with Harry and the Quidditch, it's a smaller plot point, will Harry win the game, or stay on his broom, or smack Malvoy upside the head? Good for a ride but not the main conflict.

  2. Great post!!! Love the Violet font color!!!

    Interestingly, I think I have more filler in the beginning chapters of my novel. It is important to find a balance between giving the reader a break in the action while at the same time not boring them to death until the next thing happens. Humor works nicely in the "between" too.

    There's lots to think about here, thanks!

  3. I like filler that develops characters. I can't think of any examples off the top of my head, but I know there are a lot out there!

  4. Piedmont -- Subplots make good 'filler.' They're something I need to get better at. It's good that you're about to weave them so well into your stories.

    Idbiamond -- Thanks. I think you're right that humor is very helpful for the in between. A little bit of a laugh never hurt anyone.

    Stephanie -- I think you bring up something interesting. The filler should do good things for your story. Character development is definitely good.

  5. I love the movie Stranger Than Fiction. SO creative, right? I would love to think of an idea that surprising and fun.