While reading James Dashner’s The Maze Runner, I had a strong, sometimes overwhelming urge to grab a permanent marker and start striking through lines. He adds a lot of unneeded dialogue tags and details that can be inferred by the reader. I understand that because this is a Young Adult novel, extra details are sometimes needed but at the same time I believe that you should never write down to your readers. A successful writer once told me to always assume your reader is much smarter than you. Assume they can connect all the dots you lay out for them and that they are a human fact-checker, making sure you’re not making up all the facts of our world while making up your story within it.
Below is a small portion of The Maze Runner with my edits. The strikethroughs are things I would cut and the other words in red are my additions.
(This is an extension of the book review I posted yesterday, The Maze Runner: A Deep Look into the Weak First Person POV. Check it out!)
***SPOILER ALERT**** I picked an early chapter so as not to give too much away if you want to read the book, but still be aware, this is taken directly from the book.
The alarm finally stopped after blaring for a full two minutes. A crowd was gathered in the middle of the courtyard around the steel doors through which Thomas
was started to realized he’d arrived just yesterday. Yesterday? he thought. Was that really just yesterday? he thought. Someone Chuck tapped him on the elbow ; he looked over to see Chuck by his side again.
“How goes it, Greenbean?”
“Fine,” he lied
replied, even though nothing could’ve been cuther from the truth. He pointed toward the doors of the Box. “Why is everyone freaking out? Isn’t this how you all got here?”
Chuck shrugged. “I don’t know–guess it’s always been real regular-like. One a month, every month, same day. Maybe whoever’s in charge realized you were nothing but a big mistake, send someone to replace you.” He
giggled as he elbowed Thomas in the ribs , a high-pitched snicker that inexplicably make Thomas like him more.
Thomas shot his new friend a fake glare. “You’re annoying. Seriously.”
“Yeah, but we’re buddies, now, right?” Chuck
fully laughed this time, a squeaky sort of snort.
“Looks like you’re not giving me much choice
on that one.” But truth was, he needed a friend , and Chuck would do just fine.
The kid folded his arms, looking
very satisfied. “Glad that’s settled, Greenie. Everyone needs a buddy in this place.”
Thomas grabbed Chuck by the collar
, joking around. “Okay, buddy, then call me by my name. Thomas. Or I’ll throw you down the hole after the Box leaves.” That triggered a thought in his head as he released Chuck. “Wait a minute, have you guys ever–”
“Tried it,” Chuck interrupted
before Thomas could finish.
“Going down in the Box after it makes a delivery
,” Chuck answered. “It won’t do it. Won’t go down until it’s completely empty.”
Thomas remembered Alby telling him that very thing. “I already knew that, but what about–”
Thomas had to suppress a groan
–this was getting irritating. “Man you’re hard to talk to. Tried what?”
“Going through the hole after the Box goes down. Can’t. Doors will open, but there’s just emptiness, blackness, nothing. No ropes, nada. Can’t do it.”
How could that be possible? “Did you–”
Thomas did groan this time. “Okay, what?”
“We threw some things into the hole. Never heard them land.
It goes on for a long time.”
before he replied, not wanting to be cut off again. With as much sarcasm as he could muster, he said, “What are you, a mind reader or something?” He threw as much sarcasm as he could into the comment.
, that’s all.” Chuck winked.
“Chuck, never wink at me again.” Thomas said
it with a smile. Chuck was a little annoying, but there was something about him that made things seem less terrible. Thomas took a deep breath and looked back toward the crowd around the hole. “So, how long until the delivery gets here?”
The chapter continues but I think you get the picture. Its important to understand that some of these edits are stylistic. Perhaps Dashner wants Chuck to be a man of many words and that is why he has him repeat himself. But in other cases, I think a lot of writers (and readers) would agree that Dashner has unneeded explanations.
Example: “Chuck interrupted before Thomas could finish.” Cutting someone off before they could finish is the exact definition of interrupting someone, so if you cut this dialogue tag to say “Chuck interrupted” it doesn’t lose any meaning. Its the same idea as “he whispered quietly” or “he pointed with his index finger.” Readers know that whispers are quiet and they will assume pointing is done with the index finger. Assume your readers are smart and treat them that way. No one wants to be talked to like a child, especially not teenagers (YA readers).