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Where Did that Come From?

Your protagonist is happily going about her business. She’s baking delicious cupcakes, bemoaning her lack of love life and worried about her grandfather whose mind doesn’t seem to be as sharp as it used to. When all of a sudden she hears a sudden loud noise. She drops the cupcake she was frosting, jumps to the opposite counter and grabs her heart to calm herself. Frantically she looks around for the source of the noise.

Do we really need to be pulled out of the story to have her say, in italics, “where did that come from?” or did we get the gist of it by her actions in my very poorly written scene?

Often I see manuscripts where authors feel the need to tell the reader what is in the protagonist’s head. Sometimes it might be necessary, other times, like the case I outlined above, aren’t. The idea when writing a book is to show the story rather than tell it. If you constantly need to jump into your character’s head to explain to the reader what she’s thinking you aren’t doing a very good job of showing.

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4 comments

  1. Or you don’t trust yourself as a writer. This was a real problem for me — always explaining after dialogue tags just what I meant that dialogue to say. Ugh. It took my brilliant (in other words, strict as nuns-with-rulers) beta readers to break me of the habit, or at least cut back on the majority of instances. The dialogue on its own was doing the job just fine, I simply needed to learn to trust myself — *and* the reader– far more.

    Super post, Jessica, offering a simple and clear example of the flaw.

  2. Great point as always. I find most often I like using them to more convey attitude. Things my protagonist fights to keep FROM saying.

    Cass caught Mara sauntering towards Luke, hips rocking back and forth like she thought she was the cat’s meow. None of the regulars at Ben’s Beer Barn had ever been able to say no to Mara, regardless of what she wanted. A flick from her golden lock of hair and her so-called sensual gait, lured them like drunks to a free beer tap.

    Dumb a_ _es. (I’d use italics here)

    Luke continued to ignore Mara’s attempts at gaining his attention and actually knocked into him, spilling her drink on his shirt. Cass made out his quick apology, though he’d done nothing wrong, and overheard him tell his buddy Mac, the bartender, to order her another. But color her stunned, Luke turned his attention away from her again. Wow. Cute, polite and smart enough to recognize trouble when he saw it.

    Again, Mara sidled up to him and whispered in his ear.

    Back off skank, he aint’ interested. (Again, I’d use italics)

    Hope that would be the right or acceptable concept.
    🙂
    Thanks Jessica for the posts Jessica and have a great week!

  3. Thanks, Jessica, for getting the word out…thoughts should be natural sounding, not contrived or obvious. Over-explaining thoughts or having people talk out loud when alone is not a good read. This person either hasn’t a quality critique group or didn’t listen to them.

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