Writing Tip #12

Don’t “look” before you speak. My characters have “looking” issues. And “turning” issues. When revising Baby Grand, I found they had a nasty habit of “looking at” or “turning toward” people before speaking. I realize that in “real life” one must do these things — I must face my sister-in-law or else she might think I’m teasing my husband or mother-in-law instead of her. I tell my kids all the time: “When you’re speaking to someone, you should also be looking at them and facing them.” Not so in fiction. Actions such as “looking” and “turning” often can be assumed and easily edited out of a manuscript. Just like it’s not necessary to say “he said” or “she said” all the time. The reader gets it and fills in the blanks. For example:

Sentence #1: Dina turned toward Susan. “Can you pour me another glass of wine?” she asked.

Sentence #2: “Can you pour me another glass of wine, Sue?” Dina asked.

Both examples say the same thing, but the second one is tighter. Says more with less. The reader assumes that Dina is looking at Susan without the writer having to say so. Of course, if you love the first example, it’s perfectly okay to use too. Just know that you have options, that your characters don’t necessarily have to “look” or “turn” when they want to say something like we poor slobs do. It’s one of the perks of being imaginary.


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