Anyone who's actually driven through the American heartland will know what I mean by this. Kansas and Nebraska--- especially Nebraska--- are places the motorist must to suffer through in order to get to somewhere actually interesting.
Books can have a similar geography. Sometimes, in order to go somewhere exciting, you have to drive through a dull patch. You can't have the big reveal unless you painstakingly set up all the clues, or time has to pass before the plot can play itself out, or your character has to visit Aunt Sallie in order to look at the photo album that provides the clue that solves the mystery. Aunt Sallie herself isn't very interesting, nor is the photo in itself. You can try to make Aunt Sallie a more rounded character--- you can give her amusing lines, and maybe put her in an interesting place, or give her an unusual relationship with your protagonist--- but then she becomes an interesting character who dominates a chapter and then goes away, never to be seen again. She's a bump on the highway guaranteed to wake you up when you drive over her--- or she's the World's Largest Hand-Dug Well--- but when all is said and done, you're still in Nebraska.
Writing Kansas/Nebraska chapters are dull and frustrating. You try to make them exciting or quirky, and you always fail. You end up doubting yourself and your talent. You drive in circles for ages, and all you ever see are fields of grain and the occasional silo. "Wait a minute," you think. "Didn't I pass that silo a while back? Haven't I already been down this road?"
Yes, you've already been down this road. And you're going to go down it again.
Labels: Kansas Nebraska writing