Okay, so enough people have said something about “Uncle Karl” that you’ve (begrudgingly) decided to take a look at the scenes he’s in. Hopefully there’s been a few days/weeks/months between you finishing the writing and you going back to edit. The reason for this is that time can help you get a better perspective on your story. I can’t tell you how many times I wrote something that made complete sense in the middle of the writing, but when I went back through editing I was like: Wait! What?!
So, you’re looking at the scenes with Uncle Karl. The very first thing you need to ask yourself is: What is Uncle Karl bringing to the scene?
Try to be as objective as possible. This will be difficult. Probably at some point during your re-read of the scene you smile because of Uncle Karl. It’s tempting at this point to go: Hey, I don’t know what they (your friends who have been nice enough to read your story to help you edit it and make it better) are talking about. Uncle Karl is great. I’m the cleverest motherfucker here.
Alright, stop right there. Now I’m not saying you’re not clever, and you may be the cleverest one among your group of friends, you might even be the cleverest motherfucker writing about what you’re writing about, but…BUT…what if you’re not? And even if you truly are the cleverest writer to ever write, if people are too distracted by Uncle Karl to notice then in the end it doesn’t matter.
So you’ve re-read the scene with Uncle Karl in it with the question, What is Uncle Karl bringing to the scene, on your mind. Now for the second question: What is the scene trying to accomplish? Thinking of this question re-re-read the scene. Now is Uncle Karl helping or hindering what you’re trying to do in the scene?
Obviously if Uncle Karl is helping then Uncle Karl gets to stay. If Uncle Karl is hindering Uncle Karl gots to go.
You have to do this for each scene individually. I must stress: DON’T GET RID OF UNCLE KARL IN EVERY SCENE BECAUSE HE DOESN’T WORK IN JUST ONE. The reason I bring this up is because Uncle Karl isn’t just taking up space on the page, he’s taking up space in the world of the story. You took the time for the story to have Uncle Karl in it so the story WILL have a hole to fill if you take him out.
This is actually a good segue into the coolest question of “The Uncle Karl Fix”: What happens to the story if you take Uncle Karl out completely? BA-BA-BUUUUM!
For instance what if Uncle Karl is hindering one of your scenes, but he’s there to introduce something that will be important later in the story? So Uncle Karl is hindering the scene but helping the story. Fair enough, but what does taking him out completely do for the story? What if taking Uncle Karl out forces the Main Character to be more proactive? What’s wrong with that?
What I’m trying to get at is that getting rid of Uncle Karl doesn’t have to be a bad thing. It can provide opportunities for the story to grow and move in directions you didn’t expect. From part one I mentioned my most recent “Uncle Karl” was that my story was from a character’s POV and that it just wasn’t working from their POV.
Yeah, I was upset. Something I wanted to do didn’t work. The story sucked. I had my maybe-they’re-just-not-smart/cool/into my genre-enough-to-get-what-I’m-trying-to-do moment, and once I calmed down I started thinking about the other characters in the story. When it occurred to me who’s POV it should be from all these ideas flooded into me about how I could play around with different aspects of the story, things that hadn’t even occurred to me the first time around, things that couldn’t have because the way the story was coming out. All of a sudden the story was breathing and alive again.
At the end of the day that’s all we, as writers, really want isn’t it? To have a story that’s fun to write and lives on its own.