Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Crutch

In reading my book out loud to myself, I figured out that I have certain go-to phrases and ideas that I lean on whenever I've run out of ideas.

It's really annoying to discover that you do this, but I've heard from other writers that I'm not the only one. (Thank goodness!) One writer told me that she always has her characters smiling.

"Thanks!" I smiled at him, trying not show my feelings.

That sort of thing, but over and over again.

Why does this happen? Personally, I get tired of writing the word "said." In writing dialogue, it's best to use "said" when you attribute a line to the speaker, rather than obscure things like "Oh, I would never," she averred. "Said" is more unobtrusive, often invisible to the reader, so it allows your dialogue to shine. But I get sick of it. So I insert action and motion into the dialogue, trying to add layers of meaning.

How do I do this?

By having people lift their eyebrows. Voila, my crutch. In reading my book again, I found my characters lifting their fricking eyebrows at each other left, right, and center, upside down and sideways. I had a veritable army of Spocks on my hands, indicating their attention and fascination and skepticism, and anything else I could think of, with their eyebrows. Lazy of me. Shiftless, slothful, and positively torpid of me.

The problem with the crutch is once you realize you have one, then you have to go in and change it every time you use it. Ugh. What the hell else is character going to do during an intense conversation other than lift their eyebrows?

Hello, "said."


elisa nader said...

i have crutches. more than one.

sigh -- lots of sighing going on in my story.

smile -- many, many smiles.

lots of 'gaze meeting' too.

ugh is right.

Nina Berry said...

OMG, the "gaze meeting." I do that all the time too!

"Our gazes met, and I understood the meaning of the universe."