TMI dude!

I was reading a story the other day and had a good chuckle. Not at the clever dialogue or humorous narration, but at what shouldn’t have been there.

It struck me that there is over usage of descriptions and there is over usage of action descriptions. They aren’t the same but they can both become overpowering to the point of ridiculous. The temptation to write a characters’ every movement is one of them. However, the unseen movements are sometimes the best because they are left to the readers’ imagination.

What I’m talking about is something I myself am mindful of. The urge to explain everything. Especially if a character is doing something specific like drinking, smoking, putting on makeup, grooming or eating. This is where the gist, is plenty. All that is needed is a good set up, maybe one more action and an end action. Like all scenarios within a story, they also need a beginning a middle and an end.
Let me show an example:

Scott leaned his back against the cool brick wall as Dale cracked open his ice cold can of Coke and took a large swig.
“So you’re okay with the whole Amber thing?” Scott asked eyeing the red and white logo with jealous eyes.
Dale looked at the can appreciatively then at his friend. “Yeah, I am.” He lifted the can to his lips again.
“Man, I don’t know if I would be. She’s a slut, she can’t all of a sudden be the good girl”
Dale sucked the residual liquid that was stuck in the lip of the can after chugging most of the soda. “I told you she was faking it to get your dammed attention.” He shrugged and tipped the can up draining the last of the drink. “Besides you know I’ve liked her forever.” Dale let out a long quiet burp muffled by the fist against his lips while staring at the empty can.
“So you two are a couple now?”
Dale grinned, crumpled the empty can in his hand and nodded. “Yup. The sex is amazing and she’s way better than you ever speculated.”
Scott grimaced. “TMI dude.”
“You’re just jealous that she doesn’t have a crush on you anymore, that she’s hot for me and that you missed your chance.” Dale tossed the crumpled aluminum into the recycling bin beside the garbage can as he walked toward the entrance.
Scott glared at the back of Dales head. There was too much truth to that statement.
(250)

Not only did the gratuitous descriptions of Dale’s actions bog down the flow, they were somewhat insulting. I think the reader understands the process of drinking a can of Coke. The drink wasn’t necessarily important to the story so if I’m honest it was descriptive filler. Sure, I found different ways to describe the actions but let’s see what happens if I treat the can of Coke like a mini story line and only mention it three times.

Scott leaned his back against the cool brick wall as Dale cracked open his ice cold can of Coke and took a large swig.
“So you’re okay with the whole Amber thing?” Scott asked glancing at Dale without turning his head toward him.
“Yeah, I am.”
“Man, I don’t know if I would be. She’s a slut, she can’t all of a sudden be the good girl”
Dale inhaled slowly. “I told you she was faking it to get your dammed attention.” He shrugged. “Besides you know I’ve liked her forever.” He let out a long quiet burp muffled by his fist against his lips.
“So you two are a couple now?”
Dale grinned, sucked the residual liquid stuck in the lip of the can and crumpled it in his hand and tossed it overhand into the recycling bin. “Nothing but net and yes we are. The sex is amazing and she’s way better at Bj’s than you ever speculated.”
Scott grimaced. “TMI dude.”
“You’re just jealous that she doesn’t have a crush on you anymore, that she’s hot for me and that you missed your chance.” Dale turned on his heel and walked toward the entrance.
Scott glared at the back of Dales head. There was too much truth to that statement.
(213)

I fall prey to showing redundant actions because I want the reader to be immersed in the scene, but I think confusing the need for scene descriptions with character actions causes this TMI (Too much information) problem. It also increases my word count and as a wordy person I need to watch that.

My advice about excessive action descriptions. 
The cliche, less is more, is so apt for this problem. Let the reader fill in the gaps; that’s half the fun of reading.

-Sheryl

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Well, excuse me!

I really enjoy the little things in writing. The sometimes humorous or clever things that make a story or character believable and fun to read. I try my best to include the little nuances that make a human being human even if they only exist in my mind and on paper. These little tidbits are not for everyone or every character otherwise they wouldn’t be minor traits.

Our emotions define us has people and embarrassment is one of them. Our bodies betray us in ways that can be funny and or embarrassing. I talked about flatulence so how about the other gas expelled from our bodies?

Yup, burps and belches. Stifled or free to fly they can be a point of contention, compliment, embarrassment, humor, insult and offense. What is the difference between a burp and a belch? Volume mostly. A burp is a natural expulsion of stomach gas, while a belch is generally forced out to be louder and longer. Both can be voluntary and both can be created by swallowing air and or carbonated beverages.

Reasons People Burp
Consumed air or carbonation with drinking or eating
Indigestion
About to vomit
Making room for more food (Still from swallowing air)
To pay a chef a compliment
To be manly *eye roll
To be rude
To be silly
To show off or compete (Yes this happens)

Burps can be stifled or belted out. They can sound very different from one to the next. I’m not sure if I would use this much or at all perhaps to show someone’s lack of manners or to bring about embarrassment.

Dale wolfed down his second vendor-dog and chugged his coke as he and Amber swiftly walked back to work from lunch. Back at his desk, Dale hung up his jacket and turned as Rachel approached him apprehensively.
“I have the new printouts for the Toothpaste demo for you Dale.” She held a folder of pictures.
“Thanks snitch.” He snatched them from her hand belching loudly wafting his hand before his face. “Woo! I should have passed on the onions and banana peppers.” Dale laughed as Rachel gagged from his aromatic expulsion and hurried away.
Amber popped her head over the divide between their cubicles. “OMG Dale that was hilarious.”

Anne sat at the café table with Valery; her hand flew to her mouth as she burped wide-eyed. “Oh-my-gosh! Excuse me.”
“It’s all good, you tried to cover it.” Valery waved her hand in dismissal and told Ann about her post-taco encounter with Jackson the night before eliciting giggles and laughter.

Bodily functions are good for highlighting a characters level of manners or maturity. They can ease a tense moment or cause one.

My advice about burps.
While not necessary in a story, they can lighten a scenario or darken one. Variety is the spice of life and if a character needs a little something to set them apart a belch might do the trick.

-Sheryl

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