Mystery Items

There was a story I read recently that had me scratching my head. No, it wasn’t about head-lice or dandruff. I got to a scene and during this scene, there was an item being used. The descriptions were spot on, detailed and wonderful. Right up until the name of the object was used and hold the phone… that is not at all what I thought it was.  My imagination plunked in something that the author did not intend.

This kind of mystery item can cause a story to crash into imaginary oblivion and frustrate the reader. Or I suppose it can go virtually unnoticed as if it’s not really important, but that oversight alone is a whole other problem. There is a simple explanation as to why this might happen. One the writer simply forgot to flat-out tell me what the object was. This paragon of an author assumed I would know because it’s story related or possibly (And very likely) The author was trying to be too clever or ‘fancy’ with their descriptions they figured the reader should get it.

When I’m using creative descriptions I try to just announce what the item is in a non-abrupt way or get to it sooner than later. Too much later can be disruptive and reflect poorly on my skill.

HOWEVER, there are times when this can be funny, or done purposefully to add levity to the situation.

For example:

Amber shook her hands again for the fifth time in an hour. She couldn’t focus on the report she was reading. It was dull and boring and her mind was too jumpy. 
“Hey, you.” Dale grinned mischievously as he approached. 
“Hey.” Her eyes widened as he held out a small blue cube shaped box for her. 
“This is long overdue,” Dale said as she took the box.
Amber bit her bottom lip to contain her excitement and opened it. “Oh Dale I love you it’s perfect!” She jumped up from her chair, threw her arms around his neck and kissed him. 
He chuckled as she backed up. “Is that all I have to do to get you to say you love me?” He teased.
Amber bounced on her feet taking the small shiny gold ring from the box and slipping it over her finger. 
Dale brushed a stray strand of Amber’s hair behind her ear.”You’ve been so stressed lately and I know you’ve wanted one.”
“Maybe tomorrow at this dumb meeting I’ll be able to stay awake with this to fidget with.”
“That’s the idea.” Dale kissed her forehead. 

Sooooo that should have been more romantic right? Maybe, maybe not. Dale and Amber may be headed toward unplanned parenthood but…

Amber shook her hands again for the fifth time in an hour. She couldn’t focus on the report she was reading. It was dull and boring and her mind was too jumpy.
“Hey, you.” Dale grinned mischievously as he approached.
“Hey.” Her eyes widened as he held out a small blue cube shaped box for her.
“This is long overdue,” Dale said as she took the box. 
Amber bit her bottom lip to contain her excitement and opened it. “Oh, Dale a finger-fidget. I love you it’s perfect!” She jumped up from her chair, threw her arms around his neck and kissed him.
He chuckled as she backed up. “Is that all I have to do to get you to say you love me?” He teased.
Amber bounced on her feet taking the small shiny gold flexible ring from the box and slipping it over her index finger.
Dale brushed a stray strand of Amber’s hair behind her ear.”You’ve been so stressed lately and I know you’ve wanted one or something to help with your anxiety.”
“Maybe tomorrow at this dumb meeting I’ll be able to stay awake and focused with this to fidget with.”
“That’s the idea.” Dale kissed her forehead.

Poor Amber, though I’m not sure she’s quite ready for a different type of ring. They just started dating after all. With the lack of clarity, the first example had not only a different meaning but a different feel.

Now if I wanted to write these examples properly to demonstrate the frustration I would have carried on with ring comments, her fidgeting with it in the meeting, maybe someone commenting on it and then dropping the bomb that it’s just a stress revealing toy. That would be annoying if the reader was excited for them to be engaged. And annoyed that in hindsight the scenario did not fit a proposal whatsoever.

My advice about mystery items.
There is time and place for mystery, forgetting or neglecting to let the reader know what that something is, is not mysterious, it’s maddening.

-Sheryl

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Oversight
Paragon

Take charge already!

People need to do stupid things for exciting things to happen. Sometimes that stupid thing is overlooking the obvious and falling for deceit. Sometimes it can be as simple as making the wrong call or judgement. When I put someone in charge they must be confident and… well… take charge. The person following should do as they are told. (Unless the story is about them defying authority. or it foreshadows their personal journey growth) Generally when danger errupts there are people who jump up and take control and those that shrink back and wait for instruction. A person who is taking the responsibility can succeed magnificently, minimally succeed, fail slightly or fall flat on their face. What a great opportunity taking charge can bring about. This is a chance to let someone shine, rise up and become the hero or fail, fall and hang their head in shame. It could also be the opportunity for both…

To recap, Sasha is with Cal in protective custody at a hotel. The fire alarm has just gone off and it seems suspicious.

Sasha put her running shoes on despite the alarm and Cal’s assurance. She sat on the couch and bounced her feet making her legs shake. In what seemed like an eternity someone knocked on the room door loudly. Cal put his finger to his lips and she nodded. The knock came again followed by the sound of a card key sliding into place. Cal grabbed Sasha’s hand, dragged her to his room and pushed her to the ground between his bed and the window.
“Not a sound.” He laid down nearly over her and wedged them to the bed completely hidden from the door that he stoppered open earlier. Confronting the intruders wouldn’t get Cal any information. If they came too close he would incapacitate them easily enough. 

“Sir? Ma’am? Anyone here?” The man calling out came in, went to Sasha’s room and then approached Cal’s. “Hello? We’re evacuating, there’s a fire on the west side.”

Cal put his hand over Sasha’s mouth the second she tensed. There was no fire. 

“Bitch was supposed to be in this damned room.” The man muttered and raised his cellphone. “Sorry sir she’s not here, she vanished… Yeah I’m sure, I even checked the bathrooms. Either the info was false or they evacuated with everyone else. Let the others know… Sure I’ll see if it’s here hold on.”

The second the man left the room Cal got up. “Don’t move or make a sound.” He whispered then crept away silently with his gun drawn. Sasha couldn’t move even if she wanted to and didn’t recall him having a gun on him.

Cal moved toward Sasha’s room with his gun aimed. The door was just about closed, he stuck his foot in silently and slipped in unnoticed.

“She’s definitely the one, yes the files here… I have no dammed idea why she has them it doesn’t make sense sir… Yes sir… No he’s not with me. I have no control over him or what he does, he took off after I set the alarm off.” The man turned in time to see Cal’s fist. Cal grabbed the phone and saw private number displayed. He could hear “hello?” being repeated. 

“Sorry sir. Thought I heard something.” Cal did his best to mimic the man’s whine.

Leave the file I want to see what she does. Get out and report back before the police see you.” The call ended and Cal looked at the folder the man had opened on the desk.

“What is going on?” Cal said and looked at the dirty man on the floor who smelled like spoiled milk. “I think you need to answer some questions.” Cal cuffed him quickly, went to the main room door to put the bar bolt on, called backup and told them what happened. By the book, he wasn’t willing to risk a case for this anomaly.

“Come out Sasha it’s safe.” He called toward the room. “Sasha?” He ran to his bedroom. “Shit.” He pulled his phone out as he checked the outside hall. Empty. “She’s gone. Block all he exits. They couldn’t have gone far she can’t just vanish into thin air. Get the back-up here pronto… They’re all blocked? Good I’ll wait for him.” Cal cursed again and double-checked the rooms. The second an officer arrived to secure the intruder Cal was out into the hall.

“Okay Cal where the hell would they take her?” Cal looked both ways. Stairs were obvious but have been blocked by officers long enough they wouldn’t get out. The elevator, maybe. He stopped and listened. If he were trapped but still wanted to get the target… “They’re still here.” He walked slowly down the hall listening and looking at the doors. It would take a while to get a master-key to search each room.

The thing about characters taking charge in dangerous situations they either need to be naturally inclined to be in charge(written that way) or there needs to be some sort of character build up toward them becoming strong enough to take charge. What I mean is don’t pull it out of your ass and have them miraculously become someone they are not and have not been on their way to becoming.

My advice about people taking charge.
Someone has to, so choose wisely because if you don’t then the reader might not believe what is going on. 

-Sheryl

Posts from the past.

Show and tell

What happened to that guy?

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Vanish