Organization – Are you selling your vest near the pants and jacket?

I spent the past seven days up in San Francisco visiting The Daughter at college. Total fun zone. Daughter needed some grown up clothes, so we hit the mall in typical Mom/Daughter fashion, where we commenced to picking out clothes faster than the beagle cranks up the blender. After hours of trying on and making final decisions, we headed up to the cash register. There…clear across the store…were matching vests to the two suits we were buying.

WTF? methinks. Why on earth wouldn’t the store organize all the suit pieces WITH each other in order to entice shoppers to buy the entire set? Instead, they very nearly lost a sale. I say “nearly” because we jetted across the store and bought the vests as well. But geez, what idiots. How many sales have they lost because shoppers had no idea those vests exist?

Oh sure, I get it…stores think this strategy will encourage shoppers to go through the entire store – kind of how Costco continually mixes up the store shelves. Just when you get used to finding olive oil on the far right of the store, fifth aisle down, they screw things up and you have to search the whole store, only to find it on the left side, eighth aisle down. It forces shoppers to wander through the whole store. Irritating as hell because I’m always in a hurry.

And that’s what gets me about so many manuscripts I read. Information is scattered around a story and dumped in strange places, leaving me to wonder why the author buried it there, rather than putting it where it would have the most effect. If a character has an usual aversion to the color red and freaks out at seeing someone wearing a red raincoat, then this is a logical place to include a bit of backstory behind this particular peccadillo – not five chapters later when it doesn’t have the most impact.

This literary selling the vest across the store from the pants and jacket creates a disconnect from the ensemble. Because I don’t see a logical connection to the problem, I might decide to quit reading the book. It’s all about organization, baby.

If you make readers ask too many questions that go to the very foundation of your story, then you’ve blown it. They simply will not follow you. When I’m editing a book, I find myself asking the author to move bits of information to other parts of the book because I believe the reader needs that information in order for the story to make sense and flow evenly.

So give particular attention to where you’re selling your literary vest. Is it across the store? If so, is that the absolute best place to sell it? Or does it need to be hung next to the pants and jacket?

And don’t even get me started on shoes…!


4 Responses to Organization – Are you selling your vest near the pants and jacket?

  1. NinjaFingers says:

    Don’t get me started on shoes either! I refuse to wear high heels due to a certain (justifiable) paranoia about back injuries (justifable because my mother is in a wheelchair with sciatica). Some years, dress flats are fashionable. Some years they are not. If they are not fashionable, I have to live with worn out shoes until they are again.



  2. catdownunder says:

    We cats know that it is dangerous to head out on to a twig of a tree – it can break underneath you. No, contrary to belief, we do not always land on our paws – and it can hurt when you do! I think writing a book is like this. You need to go up the trunk – carefully. You can rest for a moment on a sturdy branch to take in the journey and then keep moving. Yes?

  3. Pelotard says:

    Meh, now I’m all confused. I try to put my protagonist’s irrational fears in early, way before they have an impact in the story – I’ve got his vertigo mentioned in passing on page 11, which isn’t actually used until I have him climbing the spire of the cathedral on page 267, chased by the villain. Is that too far from the vest…?

  4. It’s hard to make recommendations to you, Pelo, because I haven’t read your book. You have to ask yourself whether it’s vital the reader know these irrational fears early on, or whether it would make a bigger impact downstream.

    You could very well be right the way you’ve written it. All I’m saying is that authors need to be mindful of where they put information because the reader may not remember it by page 267.

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