Donna Everhart

Pet Peeve

This post is not necessarily going to win me any new friends.  It might even offend a few people.  And, please know, I do not claim to be the expert on writing.  But…, I do read, and I read a lot.  Not just books, but magazines, newspapers, on line material, like writing tutorials, articles, plus blogs, comments in blogs, etc.  The majority of my time is spent writing and reading, and I believe I’ve done enough reading to spot this “thing” I’m going to talk about, this pet peeve of mine.  I guess the point is, I’ve seen it enough to want to post about it.

First, we are all guilty of doing it.  There isn’t a person out there who is currently writing their short story, novel, memoir, essay, whatever, that hasn’t done this at least once,  maybe a lot, as in their entire piece.   Second, sometimes when someone “says” something about it, (like this post here), it gives us writers a reminder, and perhaps we can go back and look at our work and recognize it.   Yes, this is another guideline or rule writers should follow, but hey, there are only a gazillion, what’s one more?

So, here’s the issue.  Have you ever read a book and thought, this sounds waaaaay over done?  It reads like the writer is trying too hard to say what they want to say They’ve decided that stating, “the sky that day was blue” is too simple, too plain.  Maybe it is, but I’m not sure what to think if I read, “the sky that day, that vast endless space radiated a brilliant azure, as sharp as ice, a purplish tincture that looked cold and warm at the same time.”  (wtf?)  Um, no.  IMHO, that’s trying too hard.  I could settle for, “the sky that day was a crisp, beautiful blue .”

What about this one?

(Note: The sentences above I made up, but this next example I’m taking off another blog.  It was posted as “anonymous” and since no one will know who that person is and I doubt that person reads my blog anyway, I decided it’s fair game to use.  This, of course, is not representative of this person’s work, but, if they post a simple comment and write like this, I can only imagine what their work must be like.)

The question on the other blog was “What do you read with?” and had to do with a writer reading their own work out loud to themselves)  This answer was provided by Anonymous:

Yes, with my ears…AND imagination. My imagination breaks loose when I read. It glides over the words like a plane on a runway, when the writing is good. I’m going, going, going, then lifting off, taking flight into the writer’s world….standing in a fully formed place, watching the people, all of my senses engaged. I’m feeling at home before I find myself back on the page, again, taking up the writer’s words where I left off.

I’ll just apologize in advance to Anonymous, but, for Pete’s sake, really?  I’m sorry, but to me, this just seems like TRYING TOO HARD.  I don’t know.  Perhaps some of you reading will recognize not only this question, but the response.  Maybe you agree, or maybe you don’t and thought it beautiful.  Our tastes differ, and we’ll leave it at that.

What I have read about the craft of writing is, you do not want “dear reader” to be able to tell you are writing.  That sounds stupid…, of course they know somebody wrote the darn book, but by that I mean, you want them engaged in the story.  You want them caught up in what’s happening, not focusing on the writing.  And as I said above, we all do it, hell, I just did it yesterday…but,  I recognized it.  I slapped my head, and said, “STOP.  You’re writing like a pompous ass…,” or something like that.

This is my own pet peeve.  I try very hard…, to not try very hard, you know?

What about you?  Do you recognize when a writer has tried too hard?  And, do you recognize it when YOU do it?

17 thoughts on “Pet Peeve”

  1. I used to do this sort of thing. Tetman cured me of it a couple of years ago, thank god, and now of course I cringe when I see other writers going deep purple.

    1. 🙂 That Tetman, he’s the real deal…I wish I could meet him. You’re lucky to have had him work with you…and he’s a big fan too, a double bonus!

  2. This really bugs me too. I feel like the writer is so passionate about what they’re saying that they start exaggerating and bordering on flowery prose without really paying any attention. =/

    1. Exactly…or they are trying to impress their reader. I’m at fault for trying to be too literary, trying to twist the words so they are profound. Cure for that? Read the next day…and before one throws up, delete, purge, begin again and cut the crapola. 🙂

  3. So many people do it that I thought I had a long way to go as a writer because I don’t write that way. (Honestly, not that I know of anyway. Of course, I haven’t written much beyond research papers and blog posts.) When I hit grad school I had a couple of profs admire my work because of its simplicity. They clarified that I write simply and clearly about topics. So since then I don’t ever “try” to make words fit…I just write it down and move on, assuming/hoping my usual style comes through.

    1. I have found the books I’ve enjoyed the most were written that way, Jennine…simple and clear. Your blog is like that, and very enjoyable. We all have our own distinct voices even when we write a sentence in a similar manner. (funny how that works!) but it’s the way we organize our words, where we place them. The perfect example of that was something my editor told me when we were working on the first book. She said, “you don’t need to write your words the way your character pronounces them, we know she’s southern by the way the sentence is structured. But then again, my editor is British so it’s probably most obvious to her…and I still like to write as the dialect sounds)

      1. Oh thank you for the compliment 🙂 It is funny how it works…I can’t see it in my own writing. My 8th grade English teacher told me I could write and I was surprised. My grad professor was the first to label my style, followed by a co-worker. I’ve just taken their word for it. My blog only kept going because a friend insisted I should.

        Your post made me wonder though, so I went digging last night through old stuff from high school and I did find a piece that is chock full of this flowery writing! I think it’s one of very few surviving pieces from school because I was so darn proud of it! Haha!

        So I wonder when you know to use the dialect thing and when not to? I mean look at Huck Finn!? I think it’s fun to read, but maybe the dialect has to serve its own purpose? I think Mark Twain used the dialect almost to make fun of his characters…he overdid it. But I’ve read other books that use dialect and it didn’t seem to be poking fun and I enjoyed it too.

      2. I soooo wish I had some of my earlier writing! I had a diary for YEARS and forgot to get it off the top shelf in a closet when I moved out of a house- back when I was in my mid twenties. I’d had it since I was eight and I still get a little lurch in my heart when I think of it…and then there was my first short story – THE PIZZA PALACE CONFLICT. I’d love to have a re-read of that so I could laugh. 🙂

        I think a perfect example of dialect working as narrative is THE HELP. I immediately latched onto her style – not because I write my own narrative in a dialect (only dialogue), but because for that particular book, it worked so well in capturing those wonderful voices.


    Not sure why my comment came up with the name I never use, duh ?

  5. Sorry if this comment pops up twice but my puter is acting weird

    To answer your questions, yes and yes. How’s that for being succinct?

    For many years I overwrote so much that my flowery and trite, overly clichéd, pastel petaled platitudes became as commonplace at the redundancy I just illustrated. And then I read a book called, MAKE EVERY WORD COUNT by Gary Provost; out of print but well worth the $1.46 for used on Amazon. It was like switching to automatic after a lifetime of driving standard.

    I remember the passage you quoted, it cracked me up because I thought maybe someone was putting us on; guess not.

    Oh, and about Tetman, is he really as smart as he professes to be because that boy has one hell of a brain?

  6. Hey Wry,

    I have that book and I blogged about it a while back – it WAS worth whatever I spent on Amazon to get it! I just finished BIRD BY BIRD and thinking it wouldn’t hurt to revisit Provost.

    Hey, Anonymous could have been putting us on…I don’t know, but as soon as I read that – I was rolling my eyes. I think some people post like that on Betsy’s blog b/c they are trying to impress her (mostly) and maybe the others who comment too. Either way, it was what prompted me to write this post – like a “get over yourself already…”

    Tetman – I’d love a chance to meet him – he’s one of a kind.

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