Sep 27 2010

Flutter by, Butterfly

Melissa Crytzer Fry

I’ve mentioned, before, the lack of luck I generally have in photographing butterflies (and cool moths).

This southern dogface sulphur butterfly stopped long enough in Smelter Wash for a pose. Click to enlarge. Scroll for additional photos. Photo by Kathy Becraft.

My bad-butterfly luck changed last week during a hike through a remote Arizona wash. During the early morning, butterflies were everywhere, drawn to the sudden proliferation of purple desert-variety morning glory flowers and vines that snaked through the wash.

My frustration as these winged insects skittered about, wandering in a seemingly aimless path – and the fact that I just couldn’t get the shot – was rewarded when a few of them did come to rest. See additional photos below.

For Writers: How you craft your novel is your choice – whether you’re a planner or a ‘pantser’ (fly-by-the-seat-of). Both are completely acceptable and can result in delicious fiction. But in the end, your completed story cannot take the meandering path of the butterfly. Or you’ll lose your readers.

Yes, it’s true. It does happen … we’ve all read published novels that seem to go in loops – or go nowhere. I’m currently reading a novel that seems to lack focus and is an all-over-the-place smorgasbord of flashbacks. In fact, in some parts of the novel, flashbacks from three different eras are thrown all together. Confusing! I’m still reading and giving the book the ‘benefit of the doubt’ because the author is a NYTs bestseller (whom I’ve loved). But I have to be honest: the sporadic “butterflyesque” structure of the novel is distracting me.

A good read is one in which flashbacks are used sparingly – and peppered throughout – so that readers don’t get one giant dose of back story (or multiple giant doses). A good read is one that has rhythm and flow, yet tension and fluidity. A good read shows a natural progression as a character faces some obstacle or life change. We want to see how that character meets the challenge. Logically. We don’t want to bounce around the story with seemingly unnecessary scenes or characters that don’t advance the plot.

I didn’t think about it at the time of my hike, but oddly enough, it seems that butterflies and their jerky, uncontrolled movements revealed a lot about writing.

2 Responses to “Flutter by, Butterfly”

  • Rachna Chhabria Says:

    Hi Melissa, what a wonderful analogy. I am in sync with your thoughts. I have read several books where the writer has completely lost the plot and has no clue where the book is going. At times I wonder how did it get published. Were the editors sleeping?

    Yes, flashbacks can indeed be boring if they come in mega doses. Just small bits of it are sufficient. I agree with the rhythm and flow and tension and fluidity part.They are extremely important.

    Thanks for the tweet.

    BTW..the pictures of the butterfly are lovely.


  • Melissa Crytzer Fry Says:

    Thanks, Rachna. Glad you like the butterfly shots and THRILLED you are in sync with me. When you write a blog, you never seem to ‘know’ if you’re connecting, as folks don’t always leave comments. I can only hope, in my own novel, that I heed my own advice. I’m striving for “just-the-right’-size” flashbacks, fluidity, rhythm and flow.


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