Wednesday Workshop: Shallow Surface Rushed and Meaningless

I have read some terrible stuff lately. Shallow. Surface. Rushed. Needs to slow down a step and develop. Telling instead of showing. A car that runs out of gas and the character says, "Well, I guess my car just run out of gas while I am driving out here on this abandoned road all alone, and I will have to walk all the way home at night!"

Are you serious? Who are you talking to? There is obviously no one else out here. The car? Or the reader?


It is that sort of banality that lights a fire in me. Makes me want to write. Makes me want to soar and fly. Takes these hands and makes them spit prose and fire upon my keyboard in a textual assault on a reader's senses.

I don't know what it is. Poorly written prose ignites my passions. Perhaps the years I spent reviewing erotica and working with writers to help them develop back in the 50 Shades erotica gold rush. It is not that I dislike the writer, I dislike the crude and stumbling words that struggle. You can see the words not come out. You can see the verbal pause, the awkward explanation, and the drunken composition of a mind at war with itself to express.

No mind should struggle.

Pure words and emotion should flow forth.

Nothing should be in the way of what is in your head and what enters a reader's mind through your words. Those words, those words are what we struggle with. What we fight. What prevents us from saying what we feel, and making someone else feel what we say.


I hate seeing it. I hate reading it. My mind instantly snaps into editor mode. Please tell me more! What does she look like? Is her hair dark or light? Tank top and shorts? A dress? What color? Does she wear perfume? Jewelry? What are her shoes like?

What type of car is she driving? Is it new or old? Anything about the car that would give us a clue to her personality? A stuffed unicorn hanging off the rear-view?

Is she in the desert, or the woods?

Why did she run out of gas? Did she forget to fill up? Was she preoccupied by thoughts of her boyfriend?

Now, the trick here is to not go overboard, don't write me a 5,000 word essay on her car and past life, how she graduated from college, how her old boyfriend dumped her, what her day at work was like, and the fact she missed her parent's call today. I don't need that all.

Just one or two things.

Carefully placed here and there.

Clues dropped that a smart reader will pick up on.

Ripped jeans and boat shoes without socks. A black hipster retro t-shirt from an 80's rock band. An old Volvo with a cracked windshield. A stack of unopened mail on the dash, four of them form letters from colleges. The smell of sweat and body wash. Blonde hair tied in a tail with a rubber band. Blue glitter eye-shadow and pink lips.

I'm done.

There are my 5,000 words of history and backstory. I can read so much into that one paragraph it isn't funny. My mind does the rest. My experiences makes up a huge part of this, and what is fun - each reader fills in their own personalized details.

Better yet if I don't do it all in one paragraph, and spiced my action and narrative with those facts here and there. The above was an info-dump, and I like my facts woven between the interesting action and dialog. Let the reader read some action. Drop a little fact in there that matters. Keep the story going. Hit them with another. Space out your spice and backstory.

One reader may see those form letters as four colleges wanting her. Another may see four rejection letters. Someone may see that hipster t-shirt and say, computer science. Another may say, party girl. Someone may see the old Volvo and say, a poor girl. Another may say, smart and saving her money for college.

If any of those one things matter later, I have the room to explore further in future chapters. If they don't, so be it, let the reader imagine the details. I don't have to explain everything to my readers, they are adults. In fact, I don't want to explain everything to them.

Oh, Hollywood.

How you have lost your way explaining every little bit of trivia and backstory to every frame of every movie trying to endlessly fill in the details of a pair of dice hanging on the windshield that aren't really that important anyways. She bought them at a gas station. Nobody gave them to her. They are just a part of her silly style. Live, let it be, and accept it.

Move on with the story. Fuck those dice.


Intertextual writing is a plague upon us. It tells me, you, the reader is stupid and needs to be spoon fed only the things you have saw before and are familiar with. Nothing new can be had. And they take the concept to an insane degree. They write to us like we need handrails forged from the scraps of tired nostalgia.

I don't want everything explained. I want to read like I am standing right on the edge of a 10,000 foot cliff. I want to walk upon paths where no one has tread before.

I want to see just the interesting jagged peaks poking above the clouds.

And I want to imagine everything underneath.