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Human Traits : Conversation question • Writing Forum | WritersDigest.com

Human Traits

Every month in Writer's Digest's InkWell section, we pose a question related to the writing life. Tell us your thoughts.
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MelchiorHagen
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Human Traits

Postby MelchiorHagen » Fri Oct 14, 2016 1:44 pm

Greetings,

I'm not sure if it's the right place for this, but I'm sure that some can relate to this or it might induce a journey toward memory-lane for the more experienced of writers.

As a novice—I've been at it for a year now and not caving in (yay)—my time has been spend with a lot of reading and writing and thinking. Naturally I've learned. What's more shocking.. I'm actually finding some sense of pride at my stubbornness to continue. However, though reading is a fun experience to me, which's a must if anyone's to develope a certain writing style, there's often a cliche to be found. Sloppiness and repetitive descriptions.. it happens even with renowned writers. We can do a lot more than just lip-biting. As a result I've sat down with a pen and paper to explore some scenarios (which I'd like to share since it might help others) with encouragement to come with something original and fresh. Please note the list's an expanding project of mine, and perhaps someone would like to add on this. Personally, I think I'm being way too prissy about it.

To begin.

People do: bite their nails, chew on their upper or lower lip—though some people (myself included) prefer to savage the inside of their cheeks, instead, and trying to bite off an irregularity occasionally gives me the jaw-movement of Sylvester Stallone... To carry on.. In anger or anxiety people may flutter their nostrils, they have muscle spasms near the lip in distress, they tap their feet or fingers, crack their knuckles or neck, they sweat... personally, when I make an ass of myself in public and become aware of it, I often glow red from shame... Some folks breath loudly, others hyperventilate, we can fiddle with random objects, smoke or drink or do drugs. Folks have stomach cramps, occasionally need laxatives. Acid can rise up the stomach from out of nowhere, and some people develop these dark rings under the eyes with an absence of sleep, and we all know there's that one person who searches his/her nose for treasure and assimilate the reward of such venture.

Which brings to mind. When I read someone's famished, there's a good chance I'm adding a detail or two.. a growling stomach, maybe a growling attitude if it seems appropriate. And if someone has to bite their nails in a piece of fiction, I'd have them swallow it (gross), or let them collect it in a jar (weird). And if romance is exchanged through a first kiss, I'd be tempted to give the dude get a sudden case of stomach acid, let the woman misinterpreted his grimace.

Things I never wanna see again in any book, things I avoid myself as if it's the plague.. the shooter stance. It's beyond repetition, really... To quote: "He assumed a classic shooter stance.." ... Maybe something is wrong with me... but the tumbleweeds really starting flying with that sentence, and what should have been a stand-off turned out to be a scene from the Range Rider... The 'classic' shooter stance, in my opinion, comes from the wild-wild-west... Another one: "In his mind's eye." ... I remember being pretty impressed with such a simple but effective description.. Whenever I read it now, it almost makes me wish my own mind's eye got beaten black-and-blue so I wouldn't have read it, at all. Last one: "He was shaking so badly that he couldn't read the number." ... I'm almost positive the protagonist did not suffer a temporary but severe seizure.. almost. Truth: I imagined him being darn creative, swinging his hands all over and thrashing the antique furniture. Though it might have played out a bit awkward, it was fun nevertheless. But I found it hard to believe that pressure alone, no matter how perilous, can prevent a person from reading a telephone number—believe me, I've tried this (maybe I did it wrong). However, the problem was easily solved. I had the MC put down the note on a nearby counter, no more business-card going shaky-shaky made for an easy read.

With that said, I guess I'm a sinner like anybody else, and to tell you a secret, I occasionally imagine myself among the big writers who're out there, those who have a nack to bring either wonder or laughter. It's awkward, I'll tell you that much. It went something like this... Notorious author: "Hey, boy! Polish my shoes."
Me: "Y-yes, sir.. Right away, sir... Sorry for the delay, sir."
It even started influencing my dreams.. in it, I received a note, more of a verse which said something like: thanks, but never read my books again... Pretty harsh, right? Naturally it stimulated me to keep going, but with more of an effort and an alert eye for any traps I've set up for myself..

Now that I'm at the end of my rant I actually feel slightly vented and prepared to continue with work. Maybe in a few years when I'm thirty or something I'll know the joy of seeing my work in a bookstore (unlikely), that'd be ironic.. For now, however, I can only shrug and persist to keep myself and the few people around me smile.

Greetings and thanks for reading.
"Whether social or small, fear creeps over us all."

—The Little Autist.

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cynicalwanderer
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Posts: 416
Joined: Tue May 03, 2016 8:44 am
Location: London, UK

Re: Human Traits

Postby cynicalwanderer » Sat Oct 15, 2016 8:27 am

Original descriptions of the minutiae of life are great to include in your writing, just make sure they're there to serve a purpose to the story and not just forced in to make a point by the author. So the fingernail disposal and the first kiss stomach acid examples might serve to expand upon the personalities of those characters involved, to show one is a weirdo, another is shy, etc. But if those aren't the characteristics you're fleshing out, then having such details sitting there orphaned without any underlying context might make them seem out of place.
"I've stopped giving advice. Even when people ask for it, they resent getting it." -Ross Macdonald.

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TwoStepCharlie
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Posts: 147
Joined: Fri Sep 30, 2016 10:43 am
Location: New York, NY

Re: Human Traits

Postby TwoStepCharlie » Mon Oct 17, 2016 12:19 am

Blow up the bridge?!


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