Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Can you really do that?

We have reached a very exciting part of the book. The villain has captured the heroine. The hero races to rescue her and begins to fight the villain.

The heroine wrings her hands and bites her lips.
Really? If she’s that much of a helpless baby I’m surprised the hero wants her. Can’t she at least turn on her heels and grab a vase to hit the villain over the head with? No, not the priceless Ming Dynasty vase, but perhaps the ugly one Great Aunt Bertha gave her.

Having made her no longer Too Stupid To Live, let’s improve the clichés around her actions. We’ve removed “wrings her hands” because she’s going to “grab the vase” instead. But bites her lips? Go on try it yourself. Bite both your lips. Come on, have a go.
You can’t can you? You can bite your top lip, OR bite your bottom lip, but you can’t bite both lips at once.

Now let’s fix, “turns on her heels”. Try that. Rush away from the computer and turn on your heels.
It’s not as easy as it sounds is it? And it’s quite a slow action.

That’s the problem with clichés. We’ve read them in stories so often we think they explain the scene. But when you examine them, they actually spoil your scene, taking all the drama out of it.

Now, go away and write some stuff she can really do. And please don’t make her a crybaby or TSTL.

Helen Woodall

Helen is available to line edit and/ or content edit fiction and non-fiction. Rates on application.


anny cook said...

Interesting. Whenever I turn on my heels I fall on my ass...so helpful...

Helen Woodall: Freelance Editing said...

Oh dear! I hope you aren't bruised!