I'm writing a novel which takes place in a carefully built (science-)fictional world. The protagonist is also a fictional creature. Obviously, the reader does not know about the world or the creature's appearance, abilities etc. unless I tell about it. I have refrained from straight up listing stuff - which is highly boring - but instead have set some boundaries, tried to pique the reader's interest with a foreshadowing prologue and I fill in blanks and add to the world as the story goes.

I notice I have a hard time balancing between dialogue and character building, and action scenes. The world and the fictional creatures lend themselves very well for a high paced story with loads of action. However, I'm (also) highly interested in the character development of the protagonist and all the contemplating and thinking that goes with it, slowing down the story significantly. At the moment I have a lot of dialogue, much contemplating (insight in protagonist's thoughts) and short passages of actual action.

I'm afraid that my novel will become boring this way, and that I'm not throwing enough 'bones' to the reader to keep him interested. Are sci-fi stories at all suited for this kind of writing? How do I determine that the mix of above mentioned elements is interesting enough for someone to read, or that the story has indeed become boring? Any guidelines I can follow?

I found this question which already helped me some, but would very much like more input: Striking the balance between dialogue and narrative

1 Answer 1


Finding the right pacing for your story, if this is your first effort, may take a while.

You may want to know that a lot of what beginning writers (myself included) write, is information we need and the reader doesn't actually need. We need to know 10 times as much about our story as the reader, otherwise other problems will creep in. What you are writing now - all of it is valuable. To you. Thus, to the story.

Go into the process with your eyes wide open - there may be more revisions in your future than you think.

The blessing in this factoid is that it's fine to have a boring first draft. A first draft is infinitely more than no draft. You have a world and a story in mind.

Now - for a few choices you have -

  1. You can work on the beginning, until you are happy with it. I know many writers that do this. One of the down sides of this approach is that when you have an awesome few chapters, it can be overwhelming to think about writing the next chapter, knowing that it won't shine. I know writers that get bored and drop the project halfway through, because they lose interest. It happens.

  2. You can write the whole thing knowing it is a first draft. Give yourself permission for it to be bad. Then you have the opportunity to change it into a better second draft and so on.

  3. You can write scenes for the pure enjoyment of it, get to know your characters, explore them, without any thought about where these scenes will end up in your story. Write the climax. Write back story (for yourself.) Write an epilogue. Whatever appeals.

  4. You can buy a book on story structure and start from there. Think about how you want the shape of your book to look.

If you think your words are boring, they are. Very few people find a written work more exciting than the author, most of the time. this is because what you are writing is something in your mind, and it is not all making it onto the page, and it shouldn't.

There's a lot of smart folks here who can help you learn about story crafting. Stick around, see if it's something that you enjoy, and tailor the process to yourself.

Answer: It's less about balancing the three items you identified and more about pacing, which you massage into place in edit. There can be riveting dialog, riveting action, and riveting character development in any proportion.

  • 2
    You have a lot of valid points, helps me a lot! I'm having a lot of difficulty to allow myself to write a boring first draft. But viewing it as something I need now for the story to make sense to myself, and something that can be later revised, puts the writing experience in a different perspective. I think your choices 2 and 3 are most valuable to me at the moment. Finally, I don't think the story is boring but I do think that I've added too much information which suffocates the pace (which makes it boring). For a boring first draft though, that is not an issue.
    – Century
    Commented Apr 29, 2018 at 20:19

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