Literary Shrapnel

What I want this over-achieving metaphor to do is to corroborate the idea that small harms, in abundance, can do a lot of damage. Back me up here, metaphor.

The shrapnel flying through the air in my writing room most days consists of those uninspired, tired-out and much repeated words that somehow infiltrate my stories. Yours too?

“Luc,” she said. He nodded, shrugging off the look he got when he looked deeply into her smiling – now frowning – face. He sighed and paused, exhaling deeply. He looked a bit more – both while shrugging and also as he began to whisper. It was a slow, deep, shrugging whisper, predicated by a frown. Luc smiled, then exhaled – you could call it a deep sigh. Or a slow shrug. Really more of a shallow pipsqueak of a bobbity-bibbity, itsy-bitsy, baby shrug – a sighing, smiling, frowning, nodding, grinning, pausing shrug that he pulled up from deep in his sigh-filled shrug-sack.
“It’s not how it seems,” she said. And with that, Imogene dove on top of the sizzling grenade.

If the passage above does not push your cart, I’m not surprised. No one wants to write that way. But I’m willing to bet that you can go back and find examples of shrapnel-filled passages of your own — even in your published material!

I can. I did. I do.

Shrapnel words and the need to eradicate same came to my attention through one of the fresh tweets of Rayne Hall. @raynehall

I was blind to these deadly offenders and Ms. Hall snapped me into reality. I now have a regular step in my editing process to hunt down and defuse the ordnance hidden in my prose.

See her take on this and more, here: Newbie Quicksand.

allfornow – Mitch

P.S. – Armed with nothing more than a bottle of gin and a modified Sharpie, Luc performed life-saving surgery on Imogene. She came to and piloted the helicopter they stole from the Cartel encampment while Luc manned the .50-cal, pouring rounds into the enemy with ruthless efficiency. As the base medics rushed her into the field operating room, she glanced back. There was brave Luc, wavering in the bright corridor. He was in a grim struggle against the overpowering urge to sigh, his shoulders quivering with effort as he fought back a shrug. 

“Resist, my love, resist!” she said before falling into the welcoming blackness.


4 thoughts on “Literary Shrapnel

  1. Yes, novice writers use a lot of sighing, smiling, nodding and shrugging in their novels. 🙂


  2. I’m not sure why your play on the word “miscellaneous” for your website title put a smile on my face, but it did; anyway on to the actual article. It’s always a bit of a struggle to find your way whenever you’re new at something, especially writing. With so many professionals and opinions, whether solicited or not, it’s not hard to see why a new writer might try to be extra cautious about the material they are putting out there. Thankfully, with advice like this they can relax a bit and focus on writing with more confidence.

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  3. I think for new writers it’s difficult not to sigh and shrug and smile at the same time deliver the message as they want to. They got to think that more words equals more expressiveness. And that if their character doesn’t move different parts of his body, the reader won’t get the picture.

    It goes away with time.
    Or with Rayne’s advice 🙂

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