Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Things Writers Notice

I'm sure there are many, many things writers notice but here are mine. 

I notice typos.  It turns out they're everywhere, kind of like the little sugar ants that are suddenly sprinkled all over my house each April.  Of course, I don't ever notice my typos because that would be way too productive.

Conversation-it's true.  I've become the worst kind of eavesdropper.  I love to listen to people talk, the cadences, speech patterns, all of it.  When eavesdropping fails me, as it so often does, I've been known to start up conversations with complete strangers.  "How do you do that?" my husband will ask when he arrives to find me deep in conversation with someone I just met.  "Mom, please stop doing that," Child #1 will say if she happens to witness it.

Great coming of age story set in CT.

Observations about other authors.  I know this makes me sound slow but it didn't occur to me, until I started writing, that buried in most writer's work is some version of themselves.  Now, whenever I read a book that is coming-of-ageish, the first thing I do is flip to the "about the author section".  If it tells me the author grew up in Connecticut and the book is about a fictional person who, say for example, grew up in Fairfield, Connecticut it puts everything in a whole new light.  I spend the rest of the book wondering which moments were plucked from the author's real life.  Which isn't to say I don't enjoy it, it just puts a new spin on reading.

Plot devices and author indulgence:  Bombs (real and metaphorical) that go off with no relation to the story always leave me thinking the author wasn't sure how to move the book forward.  I also hate pages of description.  Was the desk that she trailed her fingers along made out of old-hewn walnut with inlaid marble imported from turn-of-the-century Italy?  Was the sky improbably blue with marshmallow clouds dotting it along the horizon?  Those facts need to be important to the story otherwise I will probably just skip over those words as if they were nothing but fluff.  It gets worse.  If I read too many descriptions like that I will skip them all and have no way to appreciate any of the nuances the writer wants to convey.  Maybe that's just lazy but I think it's also typical.

Like I said, this is hardly a comprehensive list.  If you're a writer tell me what kind of things you notice, and if you're a reader tell me what annoys you most when you read (here's me silently crossing my fingers that I haven't committed any of the worst sins but not feeling entirely hopeful-see typos above).

4 comments:

Jo Schaffer said...

So true. I feel hyper aware sometimes and nothing is safe--anything could end up in my story! (=

I am a people watcher. Facial expressions, the change in face and body as emotions change-- the way people say so many things they don't really mean...the pattern of conversations. I'm a spy. (=

naida said...

Great post. I notice typos too. I dont like rushed endings either.

Medeia Sharif said...

I'm sensitive to slow pacing and excessive dialogue.

I finished a book tonight and noticed two typos. As a writer and English teacher, I can't help but notice them.

Johanna Garth said...

Jo-me too!

Naida and Medeia-Typos are everywhere. Even in this comment (I originally spelled it typoes) but fortunately caught it.