Shannon Stacey

When bad writing habits strike

Writers are always learning. Always growing. Always picking up tidbits here and there to tweak the writing process. Apparently, out of nowhere, it’s possible to pick up a bad habit, as well. A really, really bad habit. A friend recently read the opening of the Super Sekrit Contemporary Project and pointed out that I’d shortchanged the story by recapping what should have been on the page. With that fresh in my mind I found a place in my Intrigue-wanna-be opening where I’d done the same thing in an even more heinous way.

Rather than try to explain further, I’ll try to whip up an example. Let’s say our heroine, Jane, is about to meet the parents of the hero, John, for the first time. She’s nervous because…umm…back when she and John were high school sweethearts, Jane’s father ruined John’s father with a bad business deal, resulting in John’s family losing everything and moving away and teenage hearts being broken.

One last check in the mirror. “I can’t believe I agreed to this.”

Sally pushed her toward the front door. “What’s the worst that can happen? They wouldn’t have agreed to it if they’re still holding a grudge.”

Of course not. Jane knew that. But logic alone wasn’t enough to bench the butterflies playing jai-alai in her stomach.

(scene break)

Jane collapsed on the couch and kicked her shoes off with a relieved sigh. That wasn’t so bad. More tension than a tennis racket string, but nobody threw a drink in her face or spit in her alfredo.

“I told you they don’t blame you for what your dad did,” John said as he loosened his tie.

“Your dad almost stroked out when I told them my parents had retired to Boca, and your mom’s comment about how nice that they could afford to be snow bunnies? Passive-aggressive much?”

He sighed and sank on to the cushion next to her. “They’ll get over it.”

“It’s been twenty years.”

So there are the two protagonists recapping a scene that should have been on the page. It’s a bad habit because:

1) Serious telling instead of showing

2) Reader’s anxiety theoretically builds along with heroine’s, but reader is robbed of pay-off

3) Missed opportunity for dialogue-driven characterization building

4) Goodbye word count

5) Countless other reasons, no doubt

So that’s what I’m doing. I have no idea why this habit popped up now, but I’m doing my best to kill it. The process is always fluid, eternally changing, but I didn’t expect to take a giant leap backward.


3 comments to “When bad writing habits strike”

  1. Kwana
      · June 2nd, 2009 at 11:30 am · Link

    Good post. I’ve seen that habit pop up on my page too. Thanks for the reminder.

  2. Brandy W
      · June 2nd, 2009 at 6:39 pm · Link

    Beat it down with a stick. Good luck breaking the habit.

  3. Charlene
      · June 4th, 2009 at 8:55 am · Link

    Sometimes it’s the obvious things that bite you. Showing, not telling, GMC…Hey, this stuff is complicated. It’s hard to keep track of all of it. Which is why writing is rewriting. :write:

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