Tuesday, April 13, 2010

TMI my friend...TMI!!!!


I was about twelve or thirteen when I rode home in the back of my neighbor’s car on the way home from the amusement park. The mom who sat in the seat in front of me had just finished nursing school and was telling everyone in ear shot about her son’s bout with hemorrhoids. After listening to a half hour lecture of how hemorrhoids form, what they look like, and how to correct the problem; I knew three things for sure.

1. Listening to hemorrhoid talk + motion sickness = urge to vomit.
2. Pre-teen girls have a hard time looking football playing boys in the face after learning about their difficult trials…um…underneath.
3. Last, but not least, I knew I would never become a nurse. *cringe*

How could I remember the vivid workings of this hemorrhoid-otic talk after so much time? Was it the way she discussed her football playing son not being able to sit on his tooshie for a week (and how did he feel knowing I knew about his toosh and its problem)? Was it the way her voice echoed through the car so that all the young girls present knew of the torture and treatments of such dealings? (Oh man! That poor football playing boy!)

No my friends, it was the way she described the on goings of things falling out of places we really don’t want them to (the nausea and urge to vomit may have contributed). But mostly - the detail she used in each disgusting detail.

She used colors in her description and smells (I’m serious *gag*). She even gave a detailed description of the ointment that was used in the horrific incident. How could I forget?

What does this have to do with writing?

Well, when writing, what kind of detail do you use? Do you use sight, smell or touch to describe your scenes? Does it make the writer feel like they are there in the scene sharing the moment with the character?

Do you add too much detail, making the rider of your book ask for a bag so that they will not heave over the backseat of your newly cleaned writing upholstery? It happens sometimes.

Details are important to use. They can leave a reader feeling that they know the places you are talking about and the characters you love - OR - They can pull the reader out of the story, searching for a garbage can for book deposit. This is something all writers learn to balance.

I'm sure there are many ways to fix this situation, but the best advice I can give is to:

1. Have someone else who loves to read look over your MS and listen to their feedback.
2. Put the ms away for a few weeks and then take a second look at it.
3. Read, read, read how other writers write.

My last bit of advice for the day – remember - when in a car with a group of pre-teen girls, don’t talk about your football-playing son’s hemorrhoids (I don’t care how cute you think he is). Ew. Gross.

p.s. I finished the challenge and missed you guys. I’m glad to be back!

22 comments:

Kristina P. said...

Congrats on doing it! And you are right about that fine line.

Susan R. Mills said...

Welcome back! You make great points here about detail. It can be a good thing or a bad thing.

Jen said...

GO YOU!!! I knew you could do it!! Though I will say that I missed your comments so seeing one pop up in my inbox today made me smile!!!

Okay so that was super disgusting and I completely feel for you for still having to remember that story to this day!!! YUCK!!! That is something that would be burned in my brain forever. I try to be descriptive in smell and touch but not on topics such as those!!!

Sara B. Larson said...

Welcome back! :-)

Wow, what a way to start off. Hemorrhoids. Yum. I went to nursing school, but I still wouldn't discuss my teenage son's butt problems with a van full of girls he knows. HELLO!! My toddler son's problems with other moms, maybe... ha ha.

But you make a great point about details. I may never think about them the same way again. ;-)

t said...

I was going to say Yay your back, but now...hmmm...GROSS. Good point though Carolyn. I have been turned off of books because the details were just too graphic. There's a fine line between real and plain yuck. We haven't seen you around so I assume that means you won - Congrats and Welcome Back.

Mary Campbell said...

Sorry that comment from 't' is me - signed into wrong account.

Candyland said...

*Feeling sick*

Shannon O'Donnell said...

Well... did you get your favorite kind of pizza? Did you? Because if I went a week without my bloggy bff and she didn't even get her pizza, I might have to lay some smack down! :-)

Great post, btw. Ha ha ha.

Rachel said...

Umm, that's hilarious and I AM a nurse :) Snot really gets to me, though. Plus, I loved the writing advice, using all the sences in my writing! Good luck with finals!! :)

Kathi Oram Peterson said...

Soooo funny! I can just imagine the girls hearing this. Good advice on writing. Thanks for the chuckle.

Medeia Sharif said...

Something like that would stick in my memory, too. I've never had an encounter like this, though. The mother was definitely giving tmi.

Sheri Larsenッ said...

Firstly, can't tell you how nice it is to have you back. Checked yesterday a few times but obviously missed you. (Had to clean out the garage with the hubby.) Congrats on the challenge!

Secondly, you have no idea how perfect this post is for me right now. I'd finished my debut YA novel about 6 months ago. Put it away, blah.... Now, I'm finding I need a stronger beginning with less backstory and WHAM!, it's like someone hit me with the stupid stick. My own wordiness is alluding me. Thanks for the advice. I will surely need it today.

Nisa said...

Welcome back! First off, eww! Second, you are so right! I loved your list of solutions.

Shari said...

Welcome back. Missed you! I thank you for the advice even as I shudder.

L.T. Elliot said...

"your newly cleaned writing upholstery"

Ha ha ha! Oh, this was hilarious! That poor football-playing-boy. Priceless...

Excellent point, though. There's a definite disctinction beteween good description and laying it on too thick. I've read a few (good!) books that just described way too much. And when you're "in" a book so deeply, you do want to gag when it comes to stuff like that.

Elana Johnson said...

Great advice, Carolyn! I'm so glad I didn't get to this post until after lunch, let me tell you. Details are so important. As is gaining distance from a project.

Patti said...

I've been accused of both. Having too much or not having enough. It seems to depend on the reader. I'm beginning to believe you really have to make a decision about what you want your book to look like and stick with it.

Tess said...

wow..that's one brazen mom! her poor son. another lesson here is to protect the privacy of your kiddos.

Name: Holly Bowne said...

Really great advice! It is the details that really transport me when I'm reading--the smells (although now the image of hemorrhoid + smell are in my head, yuck!), the sounds, the textures...

But I'm betting it is difficult to balance how much detail is too much vs. not enough. Once I finish my first draft, I'm definitely going to have to find myself one of these critique groups I keep hearing about.

Thanks for the helpful post.

Lisa and Laura said...

Poor, poor boy. I follow the STFU Parents blog and I saw a post on there about a mom who went on Facebook and announced that her daughter got her period. Really people? Anyways, I couldn't agree more. Sensory language is ESSENTIAL to making a story memorable. And I think the balance is key. Not too much, not too little. It's like an art!

Jackee said...

Missed you too!

I think the advice you give is the best advice anyone can give. Add a little spice, but too much will ruin the soup.

And if the nurse wanted to drive home the plight to you poor pre-teen girls, she should have said that's what happens to almost all women after they have children! LOL!

Jen said...

Carolyn!!!! How exciting that you are almost finished with your first draft! I'm so flippin excited for you! Thanks for stopping by my blog to share! I want to be the first to know when you're finished so I can congratulate you!!! Woohoo!!! I'm rooting for you!!! It's so exciting!