I didn’t feel like being on social media last night, and I didn’t feel like writing more. It was a bit of a busy day, and I had felt off all day, too. I got in 2,000 words, and that was fine being I had done 5,000 the day before. Not all my days off can be high-output days, and I realize this as long as I keep moving forward at a pace I’m comfortable with.
Anyway, I decided to hop on my Kindle and see what is out there by way of contemporary romance. Maybe find a another book to read, since I finished my last one, Next Girl to Die by Dea Poirier.
I downloaded a sample of a romantic suspense, and like everything else indie these days in romance, this was written in first person present. But that wasn’t what bothered me. (Okay it did, but I already roared about that in a previous blog post.) What bothered me was that the first scene started as an “As you know, Bob” scene and it gave the book a horrible start.
What is an “As you know, Bob” scene? It’s a scene were characters are sharing information with each other that they already know, but they are talking to fill the reader in.
The dialogue in the scene I read sounded like a biography because one character was telling her best friend all about her boyfriend. This is so unrealistic and implausible. If they are best friends, share everything, and talk on a regular basis like the scene implied, the BFF would already know about her friend’s boyfriend. It was obvious the scene was written to introduce the reader to facts about the boyfriend, and it slowed everything down to a screeching halt. I managed three page “flips” before closing out the book and deleting the sample from my Kindle.
How do you avoid an “As you know, Bob” scene? Here are a few ideas.
- Ask yourself if the characters already know the information they are talking about. If the answer is yes, then you don’t need the scene, or give them something different to talk about. Dialogue is designed for characters to pass new information on to each other, not go over things they both already know. As a writer how do you know you’re doing this? When you get lazy and your characters start saying things like, “You’re so forgetful! I’ve told you this a thousand times . . .” Or “I don’t know why I have to keep telling you this over and over again . . .” Sure, sometimes we do forget things in real life; sometimes we do need a little reminder here and there. But a girl’s best friend won’t need a refresher course in a current boyfriend.
- Find a different way to introduce the character.
It was obvious this scene was to introduce the boyfriend. But instead of a whole dialogue scene about said boyfriend, how about waiting until the boyfriend needs to show up? He’s going to be part of the story, the blurb said so, so why feed us backstory right then? Why write a scene that has a character saying “Well, you know my boyfriend is a multi-millionaire. He started his company from scratch in his mother’s basement and only two years later sold it to Facebook for a hundred million dollars. Now he’s partying all over town and treats me like a queen!” When you could wait and actually have the MC meet him:
So this was Jasper Hargrove, the famous boyfriend. Self-made millionaire and creme de la creme of Manhattan society. Pictures in the tabloids didn’t do his face justice. He looked like he stepped out of a Hugo Boss photo shoot and smelled just as good.
Feeding readers information in real time will always sound better.
- Ask yourself if the information is even needed.
What you think your readers should know and what your readers actually need to know are two different things. Sometimes the best information is no information. Let your readers fill in the gaps on their own. Do we need to know the boyfriend is a self-made millionaire, or that he created a start up living in his mother’s basement gorging on Doritos and Mountain Dew? Is it enough to say he’s a millionaire? Sometimes a little mystery can go a long way.
- If the information is needed, can your reader find out about it in a different way?
Maybe the MC reads an article about him in the paper, or an industry magazine. Maybe she’s watching TV and a news clip comes up. You don’t need much. The scene that lasted three pages? That could have been condensed into a couple of lines.
- Read the scene aloud or have Word read it to you and be honest. Does the conversation sound like crap? Does it sound unrealistic? Think of the characters and who they are. The scene might have worked if the friends were getting reacquainted after being apart for years and years. But even then, the boyfriend and the friend were going to be key players in the book. An info dump disguised as dialogue is still an info dump. If there’s not any new information being passed along to either character, if the scene isn’t offering anything new, if it isn’t moving the plot along, then get rid of it. It does take a lot of practice at successfully dropping backstory into a novel, but I’m finding less in this respect is always going to be more.
Thanks for reading!
Have never heard of “Well, you know Bob . . .” Syndrome? Here are a few more articles about it:
The Sneaky Secret Life of “As You Know, Bob…” by K.M. Weiland
As You Know, Bob: Info dumping in dialogue by Erica Ellis
Do You Have “As You Know, Bob…” Syndrome?–How Writers Can Butcher Dialogue & How to Fix It By Kristen Lamb