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

Other posts

Inviting innuendo

Squeaky clean

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Unseen
Immerse

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Misunderstanding miscommunication

People are separate beings. They think and act independently. Often communication can be misinterpreted and it can cause some issues. I love this human flaw. When a person thinks and says one thing that is misunderstood by someone else thinking their own thing. 

They got their wires crossed.  I try to include things that make people more human. So why not misunderstanding miscommunication?  In a tense or heated moment it is easy for someone to say something that can be taken the wrong way by another. That’s what makes it fun.  I am however careful to make sure that the misunderstood communication is relevant to both sides. Side A must have a clear reason for saying what they do and why and side B must have a clear reason for understanding it the way they do and a solid reason for doing so.  It can’t be random and must be valid for both sides of the situation. These are scenes I often spend a little extra time on to make sure both are right and both are wrong. 

The outcome of such misunderstandings can be small or great. It can impact the story not at all or be the tipping point for a serious fall out or drama. From misinterpreting a simple direction that may cause catastrophic results to having one’s feelings hurt from a poorly placed comment, the options are endless and bountiful.

Tony and Anne left Starches without saying a word or looking at each other. Ann zipped up her coat in time for Tony to pull her out to the street. The second the cool air hit them he spoke. “How could you?” Tony shot the words at her like bullets.

Anne kept up with his fast pace, she didn’t have a choice as he dragged her by the upper arm. Instead of answering, she looked away. Neil wasn’t entirely wrong about her and now Tony knew.
“I asked you a question.” He said as they rounded the corner. Her apartment was just up the quiet street.
“I don’t know.” She didn’t, not the answer he wanted nor what he was really asking. He didn’t ask again as they walked in tormented silence.
He stopped outside her apartment. “You’re not an insipid woman Anne, you just stood there and let him say…” Tony let her arm go, looked up to the dark cloudy sky and then back to her. “How could you?”
Anne opened her mouth to answer then closed it. Blinking rapidly she dug her keys out and unlocked the door. If he followed or not she didn’t know as she jogged up the four flights of stairs. She opened her apartment door, threw her keys and coat on the floor, kicked off her shoes and ran to her bedroom.

Tony picked up her coat and hung it, and his, in the closet before taking his shoes off and following her. Her response was extreme, too extreme. She was face down on her bed sobbing, her entire body shaking. He climbed on the bed beside her and rubbed her back.
“Why are you still here?” Her face in the comforter muffled her words.
“Because I’m confused.”
She shifted and looked at his honestly calm and confused face. She sat up wiping her face with the palms of her hand. Her makeup nicely smeared.
“I don’t understand. Some loser calls you names, you stand there letting him and instead of defending yourself you explained your actions to him.”
She chewed her lip as he spoke.
“How could you?”
Her eyes widened. “Oh, you meant how could I let him insult me?”
Tony’s head tilted to the side.
Anne covered her mouth with her hand. “I thought you were mad because I ah…”
“Had a one night stand?” Tony chuckled. “Maybe fifty years ago I would be. Who hasn’t? So?”
She looked at her make-up smeared hands and he got off the bed to get a damp cloth. She was chewing her lips again. “Thanks.” She took the cloth and started wiping her face.
“Anne, I feel like I’m on repeat tonight. So?”
“Oh. Right.” She averted her eyes avoiding his. “Um I was embarrassed and…” She scrunched her face. “I was for the first time ashamed of myself.”
“Here, you’re missing it all.” He took the cloth and started wiping her face for her. “Go on.”
“I’ve never.” She swallowed hard. “Cared before.”
“Cared?” He finished and set the cloth on the nightstand.
“Of what others think of me. I do what I want, when and how I want. I don’t live by anyone’s rules but my own.” Anne sniffled and wiped a tear away.
“Why now?”
“You.” She looked at his face. His days beard growth dark and shadowing his jaw. “I cared what you thought.”
His grin made her furrow her brow. “Oh you care do you?” He shifted toward her forcing her to fall back on her hands. He moved over her smiling down at her scrubbed face. “So all this upset was because you cared what I thought? You were worried I would reject you?”
She nodded as he put his hand on her cheek and made her lay back.
“For having lovers before me?”
She nodded again. “I’ve never kept a guy around long.” She pressed her face into his palm. “I’ve never wanted to.” She swallowed hard again. “Before.”
“Well.” Tony lowered his face closer to hers. “That makes me feel special.” His lips found hers parted and responsive. His hand lowered from her cheek to the back of her head and neck. He would not rush this with her.

Anne stared into Tony’s steel-blue eyes mere inches from hers as her lips parted her breath shallow and warm.
“That’s how I know.” He brushed his thumb over her rapid pulse and smiled.
Anne swallowed and whispered. “Know what?”
“That you’re worth the effort.” Tony’s soft smile reflected hers. “From the first moment I touched your ankle you’ve responded to me like no other has. I knew I didn’t want to just be another guy you dated.”
“You didn’t?”
“Oh no Anne, I wanted to be the last guy you dated.” He gently lowered his lips over hers as their eyes closed.

Aww, sometimes a misunderstanding can have wonderful results. Tony and Anne have very little strife in their relationship, it’s also very new. They don’t know each other too well so it’s bound to happen that their communication doesn’t always connect. 

My advice about having misunderstandings.
They are awesome to include, just take the time to set them up right, and make sure both sides have reasoning. 

-Sheryl

Other posts I wrote

But I hate that

I swear! Or do I?

The FAB pencil

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 Calm

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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Mirror, mirror on the wall…

A Hairy Subject

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Hike
Minimal

More is less, and vice versa.

Today’s prompt made me realize something was missing from my writing tools. My arsenal of tricks, techniques and knowledge. Something forgotten and lost. Something to relearn. Not an addiction, trendy magazines, or Florida based TV show references, but a method to convey the reverse.

Vice“>Vice Versa. Simply put, it means to state the opposite of what was said.

Easy to use and easy to use incorrectly.

For example.

“Can I come?”
He smiled. “Sure, but bring your own book, and vice versa.”
She raised her eyebrow, the temptation to let him know that a book cannot bring her to the book review club on the tip of her tongue.

“If he wants to win the cooking competition, he needs to spend more time prepping the meals, and vice versa.”

Meals cannot prep a person. I have heard this used incorrectly a few times, but in the right place, it can make the point shorter, cutting word count too.

“It cannot be. Birds do not breathe under water, just as a fish cannot breathe air.”
“It cannot be. Birds do not breathe like fish, and vice versa.”

How I might use visa versa.

Billy sauntered into the café, ordered his usual and found his back corner table. Sitting comfortably with a slouch he pulled his book out to read and wait.

He hid his malicious smile behind his book as she hesitated outside the door. “Glutton for punishment.” He chuckled as she ordered. She sat with her mug of coffee three tables away, casting icy glances his way.

Halfway through her cup, he stood with his and strolled by her table.

She glared up at him. “You owe me a cup of coffee you deplorable creature.” He looked down at her abnormally tidy hair and perfect makeup. This woman snubbed him because of his clothes, she treats the baristas as inferiors and steps on others to get where she is.

“You’re right.” He looked at his mug. “I can only afford half today.” He dumped the remains of his coffee into her mug. “I’ll get you the other half next time.” He set his mug down and once again left her stunned as she watched him leave.

There was no doubt, she despised him, and vice versa.

My advice today.
Things you knew well can be forgotten and rediscovered again by something as simple as a word prompt. Just don’t overdo it when you get it back. 😉 After all more is less, and vice versa.

-Sheryl

The story that occurs before this one: That is disgusting

And another post by me.
The “word count” down.

 

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Doubt