Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Cleaning up our manuscripts: stuffing information down readers' throats
Sometimes we feel the need to stuff down too much information to our reader at once, instead of gradually feeding information to the reader, or hinting, or giving them just enough so that they come to their own conclusions.
Or, we'll want the reader to know some "backstory" or other information that is crucial to the storyline and we shove it down their throats in dialogue, in an unnatural way.
After describing her heaving bosoms, aqualine green eyes, pouty lips, and determined chin in the mirror, arms akimbo, she stomped her little foot and cried to the room because no one was standing there, "I am going back to the market on fifty-first street today, where I went last week to get tomatoes for the famous homemade sauce my family has made for generations, and while there I saw that dark and dastardly street vendor Raoul and Raoul stole my broach just as it happened with my mother and her mothers mother and her grandmother before her! I shall have vengeance on Raoul this very day or else my name isn't Sabrina Janna Barbarito Deligato!"
Okay, for some reason I always laugh when I see "arms akimbo" - I've never used arms akimbo in my life (other than this example *haw*), but last night while reading a book I saw it! I'd not seen that way to describe hands on hips in ages. I'll never use arms akimbo, but I suppose if you must you must *laughing*
So, friends, what I am talking about here is when you want to take the easy or cheating or unimaginative or lazy way out and force down the throats of your readers information instead of thinking of a better way to allow them to find out in a more natural, or gradual, or the old "show not tell" way, or in a way that gives the reader credit for knowing or figuring out much more than we as writers think they do/can.
I wanted to make a comment about the post below concerning the "describing character while looking in the mirror." Some of you wrote: "Oh no, I have a describing in the mirror scene!" Well, I have a mirror scene: Young Virginia Kate runs to her bedroom to get her camera, sees herself in the mirror, and notices her hair is messy, she has a spot of ketchup on her blouse and it reminds her of the snake's blood. So, she makes these observations and goes on. That's something we'd all do, wouldn't we? We'd pass a mirror and make an observation about ourselves.
But, more important, remember what I keep saying: If you convince your audience, make them believe, make them happy to be where you lead them, engage them in your character's world, you have done your job--Period.
google images from: newscientist.com