|Thursday, September 15th, 2016|
7:06a - Why are You Telling Me This?
I want to keep ragging on the Devil Wears Prada (the book, not the movie), just because there was so much that annoyed me about it (mind you, I've only gotten 25% the way in, and have pretty much decided to stop there. I will explain another time...yes, there will be a third post bitching about this book.)
For this post, I'm going to bitch about the writing style.
What's funny is that an actual fiction writer makes the point I want to make while I'm thinking of this:
Bill blinked from where he sat at his desk, looking across him at the red spires dotting the desert landscape outside the office window. “My writer’s group said I needed more description and sense of place,” he said. “But then when I put in description, they told me I had stopped the action and given them indigestible infodumps.”
“Ah,” Mike said. “Did you?”
“Perhaps a tadbit, but dang it all, man, how is one supposed to convey things like new technology without a ten paragraph break explaining the history and how it works?”
“It is difficult,” Mike said, as he scooped up the three precious coffee beans from Earth and shoved them in the little door atop the coffee maker, to allow the replicator to do its thing. “But do you really need the history? After all, most of the time, do you pause to think of the history of your shaver, or how Earth people used to scrape their faces with blades before inventing the exfulicator every morning?”
“No, but… I feel like I’m just spinning bull–” He paused, as Mike, the proper weight of replicated beans having been achieved, turned on the grinder. Why the damn thing couldn’t recreate beans already ground, Bill would never know. Even when the scientists explained. “Anyway, I feel like I’m just talking mid-air if I don’t give details.”
“People don’t want details,” Mike said. “I’ve noticed that. Except very rarely, to give a sense of time and place.” He squinted out the window at the landscape. Three hundred years after terraforming, Mars was if anything redder as the oxygen rich atmosphere instantly oxidized any exposed iron. He grabbed a mug from the wall. It came from Earth and said “Visit the Sahara Ocean resort.” He had no clue what it meant, never having been on Earth, but the picture of lush green landscape and a cartoony ocean filled with fish made a contrast to the desert outside.
You can finish the post here. I don't want to give away the end.
Well, damn, Sarah, where am I supposed to go from here?
Oh right, tell you what line it was that really pushed me over the edge about the Prada book. It was saying that the first-person-narrator's mother was stirring her tea with a spoon.
That was it.
FFS, it's fine to tell me she's stirring tea, but why tell me it was with a spoon? You need to tell me only if it's going to be different from what I expect.
As I write this specific paragraph (this post was built up over time, doncha know, like fine, handcrafted artisinal Word documents), I am sitting at my desk with a cup of Mandarin Orange Spice Tea. Why is this important, do you ask? (probably you haven't even gotten this far.) Well, I noticed yesterday that the K-cup box in our big K-cup box matrix (truly something to behold - 3 rows up and 5 boxes across in each row, stacked up and usually stable) that was labeled Mandarin Orange Spice had nothing but English Breakfast Tea in it.
Or seemingly did.
I like both English Breakfast and Mandarin Orange Spice, but sometimes I want a fruity tea with no caffeine and sometimes I want strong black tea dammit. I hate sticking my hand in a box, assuming it's labeled properly, while I'm looking at the CNBC feed on the huge flatscreen TV, and shoving the K-cup into the machine... it's all very automatic... and then I take a sip and WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT?
Once, expecting Green Tea, I ended up with Chai. I was pissed.
I also just dumped out the Chai and made coffee instead.
Okay, sorry, so here's what I did about an hour ago (I think...where does time go?). I actually fished around in the box and found a Mandarin Orange Spice tea k-cup. Then while that was being spewed out the Kuerig nozzle, I pulled all the English Breakfast cups out of the box and shoved them into the English Breakfast box, which is right next to it. There was an extra cup and I just set it on the counter, and there were only 5 Mandarin Orange Spice cups in that box.
There's more to this boring story (such as how the k-cups had gotten mixed up like that, which I have a pretty good idea about), but you see that the point is people have expectations and if they are thwarted they get annoyed.
By mentioning that damn spoon, I was thrown off: "What else was she going to be stirring it with?" If she was stirring the tea with her finger, there could be a tale there, such as the tea had gone cold and she was just fiddling with her drink. If she was stirring the tea with a plastic spoon, it could mean they're at a cafe, or maybe something happened that all the spoons were currently in the dishwasher or SOMETHING. If it were a silver spoon, I'd wonder what was wrong with the woman.
It's Chekov's teaspoon. It's not so much that it will be plot-crucial, but mention a detail only if it actually adds something. Some kind of dimension. Some story. If it's what's already assumed to be going on.... why did you mention it?
Once that spoon got stuck in my craw (metaphorically), I kept noticing these issues. And while yes, some of it is flabby writing to begin with, I kept thinking -- dammit, an editor should have fixed this!
But a good editor is hard to find.
So let's hear it for the excellent editors!
And boo to the editor who left in the unnecessary spoon. (Unless said editor had tried her best in cleaning up the text and had just collapsed from exhaustion. Oh honey, have some tea. Stir it with whatever you like.)
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