Don’t plague me

I adore reading. I read a lot and enjoy various formats. There is one thing I don’t enjoy reading no matter what or who writes it. Plague. Widespread illness out of control unfurling upon the masses to bring about misery and death. This is totally a personal thing, maybe it’s my inner hypochondriac coming out to play or whatever. I just don’t enjoy reading about pustules, open oozing sores, swollen lymph nodes, the last gabbled breath of the many, over and over… yuck.

I was reading a super awesome book series and they went plague quite a few books in. I haven’t finished it and haven’t moved on in the series either. That was about two years ago. I probably won’t. Everybody has that something, that taboo subject they won’t read or write about. For me, its sex implied or explicit. Some it’s disease, illness or plagues. For others, it’s racial repression. For others, it’s violence against women or children, especially sexual.  It could be how graphically someone writes about the tattered pungent rotting green hued skin, falling off the corpse in chunks as it lands in thick wet plops on the cold hard ground. Like I said, everyone has the one thing they won’t write or read. That’s totally okay, I can’t please everyone. I should, however, be pleasing someone. Boring writing is right up there with plagues for me. If the story is going nowhere for too long I get bored. I don’t want to read a chapter describing the grass in detail either.

I find it’s a fine balance. Toss in a little of everything and keep it interesting. All good recipes require an assortment of ingredients. The more you put in the better it tastes, right? In moderation. If a plague must happen for story development or it is part of that era then fine, but less is more IMO.  I read a book that had the black plague happen smack dab in the middle. Sure the author described the misery and filth, but he did something far more amazing. He showed the good, the silver-lining and what the survivors with vigor were doing to help. He focused on the emotional and surrounding and fascinating factoids that let me get through a subject I’m uncomfortable with. That stuck with me. If it has to be there, and it must be horrifying. Why not temper it with the bright side too?

I don’t have an example of this because I don’t want to. I can be super gross, and write violence and gore. I just don’t like plagues or uncontrollable diseases.

I cannot take credit for the following since I’m not a great joke teller. *Sources unknown.

Two bacteria walk into a bar and the bartender says, “Leave! We don’t serve any bacteria in this bar.”
The two bacteria reply, “Hey, but we work here. We’re staph.”

Why did all the bacteria fail the math test?
They thought division is the same as multiplication.

A parasite walks into Jim’s party. Jim says, “Get out! No parasite are welcome at my party.”
The parasite says, “Well, you’re not a very good host.”

I need to go wash my hands a few times now.

My advice about Plagues.
When you write about something uncomfortable, there will be some who love it, and those that hate it. How you write it will make all the difference.

-Sheryl

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She’s a person not a cake

One thing that I learned that makes all the difference, is to make my characters real through details instead of the long dry head to toe description. People are going to imagine them their own way anyway so describing every single aspect is tedious and unnecessary. A girl who twirls her hair or a man who cracks his knuckles will be more memorable.

Cal is an attractive successful man, he sees two women at a bar, both pretty, one flirtatious and the other awkward. I want to show that Cal knows about style and quality. At this point Cal has already been introduced so there is no need to mention his appearance. BTW he is well dressed, tall and handsome. Typical for this type of interlude.

For example:

Cal watched the two attractive fit women at the bar. They were young pretty and an odd couple. The brunette had a bob cut and dark blue eyes. She wore too much dark eye makeup and ruby-red lipstick. She had a firm athletic body. Her long legs below her hiked up black Saint Laurent miniskirt, exposed her red lace underwear when she moved.

The other, the Blonde, wore sensible Dolce & Gabbana outfit and applied minimal makeup. Her tight pink shirt and casual black flair skirt fit her like a glove and she tugged at them awkwardly. She had pretty brown eyes and a small nose. Slim long legs and soft features. By far prettier than the brunette friend. She was dragged out tonight, the awkward smart friend too work driven to have fun.

The friend isn’t the only awkward thing there. Everyone knows what a woman looks like and if he’s interested there is a good chance they are attractive. Let me try that again.

Cal leaned casually on the wall as he watched the odd couple at the bar. The brunette looked over at him with dark blue eyes. The corner of her ruby-red lips curled as she tongued the straw in her drink and brushed the bottom of her short bob cut with her fingers. Too easy, with her black Saint Laurent miniskirt hiked up, proving her lace panties matched the over-applied lipstick. She was on the hunt.

Her modest friend however, the long-haired blonde in Dolce & Gabbana, would be worth the challenge. Again, she tugged on her tight pink shirt then adjusted her flared black skirt drawing attention to her strong legs. She frowned at her friend, following her gaze over to Cal. Her pretty brown eyes met his briefly before dropping to the drink in her hand. She was dragged out tonight, the overworked over achievers were bound to have something interesting to say and Cal was tired of boring easy women.

That may not be perfect, but it’s a lot better than the list of features before it. Believe it or not I recently read a book that did just that. The story stopped dead in its tracks for a paragraph checklist description of someone’s appearance. I try to avoid doing that.

My advice about describing physical features.
Try to work it into the scene instead of brow beating the reader with a dried up awkward list of ingredients. She’s a person not a cake.

 -Sheryl

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