Southern belle with a story to tell. Refreshing iced tea served after literary punches thrown.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Save Your Characters With Word Economics!

Sorry for the unexpected interruption folks, but sometimes life hands you lemons and you must make a decision what to do with the sour yellow footballs. Needless to say, I grabbed a knife, hacked them in half, squeezed their juicy little innards out, and made the best damn lemonade evah!

"Lemonade-that cool refreshing drink."-Eddie Murphy
 So today we're going to enjoy a glass on my virtual front porch instead of sweet tea. And here's something else fun.  As a result of the last few weeks, I've also made a decision to leave my comfort zone and professionally move into a different realm which totally embraces my being a science geek/former biology major.  Sure, I'll still keep up my medical license and do all the continuing education requirements while keeping my lab coat in the office, but I'm excited to throw my hat back into the sales arena after a decade and a half haitus, and it's going to be great fun.

And I'll sure as heck never give a presentation like this.  But it is funny. And FWIW, I'd give them a parting gift after this presentation or a souvenir (Step Brothers humor. Pardon me. I love it.), so long as the bros didn't call me Pamm or Jodie or Ms. Lady. You may refer to their infamous job interview scene & can find it on YouTube.  I'd post that here too, but the language is a little flowery.

Gotta love black leather gloves & their R&D dept. It must've been hard to get the bees to hold still.  And for that, I salute them.

Anyhow back to the blog,  because in my private time, words rule!

And during my brief hiatus, I did something wild after editing & re-editing & re-re-editing my Evil Little Manuscript otherwise known as THE DEATH BROKERS.  I read. Yep,  I read one good thriller and began reading a whole stack o' books in different genres, but something specific stuck in my mind after having been in editing mode for so long, and that would be word economy.

It's hard to remove the editing hat once you're allowed enough time to actually read for enjoyment,  and despite my best attempt to toss off that hat, I'd still find ways to improve whatever I read.

As my eyes scanned a passage, I'd unconsciously find ways to make it read smoother, and in the thriller I read (not written by one of my friends btw) I found myself removing this or that mentally to make the action get the hell moving.

Earlier today I chatted with one of my fabulous crit partners and this topic came up. FWIW, he's one of the word economy kings, and now I'm proud to have joined the unofficial club of word-economists.  You should seriously think about joining too.  There's no annual membership fee & only thing you do as a member is use your words effectively.  We hold no meetings.  You're on your own & there's no cute  membership card to keep in your wallet.

Since I mentioned mentioned flowery earlier, let's talk even more about word economics.   It keeps you writing & staying on the plot path rather than wandering off into left field and into a literary meadow where there are purple flowery things growing.

The purple flowery prose may look beautiful, but they're really weeds!
Avoid or destroy.  
 Remember the scene in the Wizard of Oz where Dorothy wanders into the poppy field & falls asleep?  That's what happens to your readers if you give them a field of purple flowery prose or unnecessary sentences and fail to keep the action moving.
Imagine these poppies are purple.  YOUR purple flowery and/or over-written prose.

Let me further illustrate by making up a fictional paragraph ever-so-loosely based upon the really great thriller I just read. Character names have been changed to protect the innocent.

Now pretend after watching this clip, that MacGyver is Johnny in the following paragraph.  But he isn't outside fighting a drug czar with a fake moustache, he's in a warehouse and his love-interest-reporter is held captive on another floor.

"Johnny grabbed the off-white colored C4 plastic explosive putty & jammed it into the crack between the gleaming metal elevator doors. Next he pushed in the blast cap into the C4 and inserted the fuse into the  plastic explosive. 

Johnny thought of Susan, the reporter he wanted to save who was held prisoner two floors below.  She meant more to him than just a reporter who would keep their lives safe by exposing the truth; Susan was someone he cared for, with her beautiful chocolate-brown eyes and raven hair. This was the first time in Johnny's life he'd experienced love. The warehouse will blow sky-high, but he won't leave the warehouse without Susan in his arms. He lit the end of the fuse with his lighter he pulled from his ammo vest and ran several hundred feet away and ducked behind giant wooden crates."

Geesh.  What a mess.  Even his Royal Purpleness would say that's an awful waste of his favorite color. He's so bored & sleepy after reading that passage, he had to rest upon the royal couch.
Dave Chappelle channeling Prince.
My hands shook & my eyes almost bled writing that horrid example, but I want to hear from you.

How would YOU re-do this mess?  What would you delete/merge/rewrite? How would you move the action along? 

Let's make this fun! Can't wait to read your edits! Can you save Johnny?  Will he still pause to reflect on his love for Susan? Will they make it out of the warehouse? 

We'll find out when you post your replies!


Revo said...

Susan was held captive two floors below; her reporter’s nose got her in trouble yet again. Johnny fumed as he wedged the C-4 between the elevator doors, plunging the time-delay primer end into the soft mass. One shot, as usual. Get down the stairwell in twenty seconds, save Susan and get out before the decrepit warehouse collapsed on their heads – all in the name of truth that had to be revealed.

“Ain’t love grand,” he muttered after flipping the timer switch and breaking into a sprint.

Joey Francisco said...


And Johnny and Susan are saved! Incidentally folks, this is why last year Revo won the flash fiction contest.

Fierce. Simply fierce and fabulous Revo. The king of noir strikes again! Although you're great w/ techno thrillers too. :)

SC Author said...

"Johnny jammed the C4 plastic between the elevator doors.

Johnny thought of Susan, the reporter he wanted to save who was held prisoner two floors below. He lit the end of the fuse with his lighter he pulled from his ammo vest and ran several hundred feet away and ducked behind giant wooden crates. He had to get Susan."

Sorry. I'm tired, and I just did a bunch of cutting (not like Revo!) and this is what I got.

So happy to see you back and blogging!

Joey Francisco said...

Thank you SC! Love you my friend. That's a good cut. Great word economics! You also show his motive- Johnny's going to get Susan out before it blows.

I'm wondering if anyone is going to leave Susan behind? Or will there be no way out & Johnny dies with Susan, along with the truth?

SC Author said...

Oohh you're EVIL. I like it. I love tragedies!!