Writers Don’t Be Lazy

Published by audenjohnson on

I’ve gotten too comfortable with my writing. Need to do something about that.  In a short story I wrote recently, my characters did a lot of chuckling, eye rolling and frowning. Nothing wrong with this, right? It is when they’re used out of pure laziness. I couldn’t think of another way to show annoyance or exasperation so, my characters rolled their eyes. That. is. not. good.  

I roll my eyes often enough, but when a character does it, repeatedly, for no good reason then… something’s wrong. As writers, we need to know why we put every word into our stories.

My first instinct was to buy a book on body language, I always go to a book, but then I thought of a free (relatively anyway) way to improve my work- people watching. How many times have you heard writers need to be people watchers? Countless right?  I never tried it and this is what happens.

I reread, for the umpteenth time, Anne Bishop’s Dreams Made Flesh. Reading this book made me realize how lacking my stories are. I’ve been studying writing for years but that doesn’t mean my stories are perfect. Not even close.


Christina, Collectively · December 1, 2011 at 4:34 pm

Great post and very accurate. It is easy to fall into a rut when writing characters and actions. I've found people watching the most effective way of finding new mannerisms and actions for the characters in my short stories. Sit in a busy coffee shop for half an hour, and you will have more than enough mannerisms and maybe even an idea for that next great story you want to write! Just make sure you take a pen and paper to jot down all the notes!

Kelly Hashway · December 1, 2011 at 4:47 pm

When I read books, I right down great descriptions or tags with gestures. I'm always looking for different ways to say things. My characters nod a lot. I have to watch that one.

Unknown · December 1, 2011 at 5:13 pm

I hang out at the local flea market on Sundays. At 9:00 am, all kinds of folks come there to find treasures that are another's junk pile. Very interesting and diverse groups to there. You have vendors who make this exchange their lifestyle, they sell fruits and vegetables from their own gardens, they sell puppies they've bred, and they smoke cigarettes and drink beer in the breezeway as potential customers walk on by.

It's amazing what characters can be found at the flea market! ๐Ÿ™‚ That's my exercise in people watching every week.

Auden Johnson · December 1, 2011 at 5:16 pm

Thanks for the great advice Christina and Kelly! It's funny, in the past, whenever I researched writing, body language never came to mind but it's so important.

Auden Johnson · December 1, 2011 at 5:21 pm

Diane you gave me a great idea. NY opened their Christmas markets and tons of people go there. I think I'll swing by and just watch people shop.

Nicole Pyles · December 1, 2011 at 11:36 pm

Hey, this is a great way of doing research! You can ask us (your reader) how we show annoyance! ๐Ÿ™‚

For me, if I'm annoyed when someone's talking, I immediately say, "Mmm-hmmm" a lot while they're talking, and avoid eye contact and look at something, like my cell phone. And sigh a lot.

I hope this helped some how! ๐Ÿ™‚

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