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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Negative or positive

Words are interesting as are their meanings. Yesterday out of the blue someone I’m familiar with but not friends with paid me a sincere compliment. I was flattered and it made me feel good about myself. It wasn’t flattery it was a complement. What’s the difference? I’m confused. That’s because flatter, flattered and flattery can be interpreted or used for both negative or positive.

Flatter / Flattered – (Verb) (Source: Thesaurus.com)

  1. to try to please by complimentary remarks or attention.

Stuck in her routine Sasha entered the common office. Scott, the office heartthrob, was leaning casually against his desk as usual and chatting with an amiable group. As he did every day, he glanced at Sasha, looked her over from head to toe and back. The slight curl to his lips as he made eye contact then turned back to his conversation, made her insides flutter from the flattering appraisal.

Karl entered Sasha’s office and she nodded a greeting. “I brought you a coffee.” He held the paper takeout cup to her. “Just the way you like it. I was there and thought after the late presentation last night you might want one.”
“Thanks Karl.” She took the offered beverage. He always meant well, the new guy who quickly learned who was important and who acted important, and flattered appropriately.
“I was in awe yesterday, you really know how to work a room. And that layout, it wasn’t like anything I’ve seen. So edgy and unique. How did you do it?”
Sasha smiled, Karl was keen and honest about it. Had it been Jada she would have shooed her from her office and shut the door.

  1. to praise or compliment insincerely, effusively, or excessively:

“Sasha that layout was the best thing I’ve seen in months. And your presentation yesterday, wow you really knocked it out of the park.”
She narrowed her eyes at Jada, she only applied flattery when she wanted something.

  1. to represent favorably; gratify by falsification:

“Sasha I want this to showcase the lead actor as the best thing since sliced bread.”
“Even though he’s not and everyone in the world knows it?”
“Your job is to make him new again by design, flatter him and force the people want to believe he’s amazing. Whether he is or not doesn’t matter.”

  1. to show to advantage:

Sasha spent her weekend revamping her style, a flattering haircut and new suits and blouses that fit perfectly.

  1. to play upon the vanity or susceptibilities of; cajole, wheedle, or beguile:

“It was too easy.” Jada smirked. “I simply plied them with constant insincere compliments, favors and gifts and they signed the contract in under a week.”
“Or you could present good work and earn the contract like Sasha does.” Valery mumbled under her breath.

  1. to please or gratify by compliments or attentions:

“Oh Sash, I’m so jealous you look hot today.” Anne hugged her friend firmly. “Flattery will get you everywhere.” Sasha grinned.
“Seriously you look awesome, your new Yoga class is paying off and your hair, that cut is sexy on you.”
“Thanks Anne that means a lot coming from you.” Sasha meant it and her friend smiled.

  1. to feel satisfaction with (oneself), especially with reference to an accomplishment, act, or occasion:

Sasha smiled at the message in her email. She had done very well yesterday and was pleased with the outcome. “I so deserve this praise.”

Sometimes its good for banter between friends to illustrate their comfort with one another.

“You look like crap Sash.” Valery chuckled.
“Flatterer. I couldn’t sleep last night and coffee isn’t casting its magic strong enough.”

It is often assumed Flattery is negative, but it’s not always. Some people will misread this word as negative unless it is clearly supported by effective writing.

My advice about Flattery.
It’s a common practice to flatter or be flattered, negative or positive. Work flattery it in once and a while it’s fun. Just make sure the reader understands how you meant it.

-Sheryl

An older but fun post: What happened to that guy?

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Flattery