A Million Things

A million things make up our days. From the moment we wake up to the moment we go to bed and even during our sleep, little things happen. They happen around us and in our heads.

Those things make up the basics of our everyday life; sometimes they’re mundane like clipping toenails to the fantastic like going for a hot air balloon ride. Daily events can be predictable like how long it takes for the bread to toast all the way to unpredictable such as parking on the side of the road and dropping your car keys down a sewer drain.

When I’m writing I tend to shuffle the predictable moment to a generalization in the story. Using mundane every-day tasks in storytelling to show something about a character is… boring.

Exhausted, Amber picked up her toothbrush, applied the toothpaste in a modest amount. She dipped the bristles and paste under the water and raised it to her mouth with a grimace. Slowly in circles, as she was taught, she meticulously cleaned her teeth. The minty taste causing a frown as it always did. With all her teeth scrubbed and clean she spit out the foam into the sink. Grabbing her cup she took a mouthful of water and sloshed it about rinsing out the offensive mint paste.

Using a predictable moment like this, one that is done daily by everyone is boring. It is a terrible way to convey that amber is hygienic and hates mint flavor. It can be assumed that someone would be brushing their teeth daily. The only time to mention this is briefly or in an opposite way that makes the moment more memorable.

Exhausted, Amber applied the toothpaste to her toothbrush and grimaced as she prepared for the disgusting mint flavor. It was all wrong; the fragrance of the mint was too strong and it tasted bitter, not sweet. Her eyes flew open wide as She looked quickly to the tube in her hand realizing she just put A535 in her mouth. 

While still a mundane moment it wasn’t as boring to read because something unusual happened. Unpredictable things make life interesting. Therefore they make stories more interesting.

If I find a chapter is dragging on or isn’t quite right I’ll look for the mundane everyday crap that I’ve plunked in as filler. I’ll decide if it needs to be removed or if I can at least make it more interesting to read. Usually, it can be taken out unless it’s a foreshadow for something important later on or if it’s genuinely needed for character establishment.

If I find a chapter is mostly mundane I might even just slash it all out and sum it up in conversation.

Amber sat heavily in her desk chair.
“You look tired,” Dale asked peeking around the divider.
“Ugh. I used A535 on my toothbrush last night and to top it off the freaking mint smell kept me up all night.” She scowled at Dale as he snickered behind his hand. “It’s not funny.”
“Totally is. Did ”
Dale started laughing, her frown turned into pursed lips before she laughed along. He had a way of making her feel better. 

My point is that I try to hunt out these drab moments where I might use hair brushing to describe characters physical features or an everyday action to make a point. Leaving a paragraph or chapter of boring everyday happenings might turn the reader off and might make me look lazy as a writer.  I take my revision process to add in foreshadows for later and adding tidbits to boring moments is a great way to do that.

My advice about ordinary moments.
Try to find them and either take them out or spice them up. Try something startling, funny or dramatic. If it can foreshadow an event later, even better. 

-Sheryl

Other posts

Blood

Sweat

+ Tears

Copyright © 2017 All rights reserved

Fragrance

Toothbrush

We can just assume…

When I read other stories or write my own I try to pay attention. Lately I’ve been over describing things or including things that are just not necessary. We don’t need to constantly include the little things. Things that can easily be assumed or understood by the reader because it’s something everyone does.

Mundane tasks that are often over described:

Going to the bathroom (Gross)
Showering (unless this is a naughty scene or pertinent to the story leave it out)
Brushing teeth/grooming/makeup (Just mention it and move on, if at all)
Getting dressed/undressed (Apply same rule as showering)
Eating (Use this as an action tag sparingly or part of dialogue.)
Shopping (Unless a major plot turns here graze this)
Cleaning
Driving
Working
Working out/fitness

Most of the time these become redundant if the action or scene is solo. Where narrative takes over and little to no dialogue occurs.

Use general terms if you want to include the action but it’s not necessary to go into detail. IMO things like this are best done in past tense. By this point I would have already described her apartment so I wouldn’t go back into that. This paragraph is the transition from waking to going to work. While not completely necessary if I really wanted to include this I would have think and be considerate of the reader. I think sometimes as I write I tend to “tell all” and that might be condescending to a reader.

Anne scrubbed every inch of her skin with the rose scented soap. Once clean, she rinsed, turned off the water and stepped of the shower. She grabbed a soft white towel and began to pat dry her body. Anne wrapped herself with the towel and began blow-drying her hair. After brushing her dried locks, she went into her bedroom humming a chipper tune as she began selecting her clothes for the day. She slipped into her favorite grey slacks and light blue blouse. After buttoning the blouse, she made her way out to the kitchen to have some granola and yogurt before she headed out to work. (107)

This is pretty wordy. I have actually read books where the mundane is laid out as if I have no idea what happen

Clean and dried from her shower, Anne dressed in grey slacks and a light blue blouse. Whistling a chipper tune she padded out from her bedroom to find some breakfast before she headed out to work. (36)

71 words difference. That’s a lot. For me as a wordy writer taking out that surplus is a benefit. I still conveyed what she’s wearing, that she’s in a good mood, clean and ready for the day.

We can just assume the reader expects the characters have gone to the bathroom, brushed their teeth and put clothes on before leaving the house. Unless it’s really important keep it simple and to the point. The temptation to put those extra words in to beef up a story will backfire and bore the reader. Make your words count there is no replacement for good writing.

My advice about skipping or summarizing the simple tasks.
Sometimes somethings are best left unsaid and left to the readers imagination. Keep it simple in this case.

-Sheryl

Other talkative posts

Oops! What did I just say?

Shut your cake hole

Copyright © 2017 All rights reserved

Replacement
Gray