Sunday, October 13, 2013

Please don’t shout!

Readers “hear” perfectly well and dislike what amounts to fiction that hollers: Bold, CAPS, italics, underlining, delineating, explaining what the scene will or did express.

Tip: Shouting is patronizing. Who appreciates patronizing?

And yet it’s rampant. Insecurity plays a major role. Consciously or not, many writers think, “I don’t write well enough to make my point, so I’ll just clarify. And in case someone reads extremely quickly, I’ll just clarify again. And slip in a bit of special formatting. How can that hurt?”

It can. Lots. Lower your voice, please. Did you ever notice how many people raise their voices with children, dogs, and English-as-a-Second-Language speakers? However inadvertent, even well-meaning, yelling comes across as insult. Its source is a different kind of mistrust—not of self but audience. Maybe they’re too young, too almost-American, or too downright canine. Yet people resent this, and perhaps even dogs feel the same way. If they don’t understand about asking to go out when they need to, yelling won’t clarify. This applies to readers, as well. Yelling isn’t more clear—just more annoying.

But don’t throw up your hands in despair or join Screechers Anonymous. A few super-serious questions might help.

~ Do you value your theme more than your plot?
That could make anyone scream, so evaluate your priorities.
~ Are you writing literary or mainstream?
Such readers are particularly quick to sniff out condescension.
~ Are you applying the speech formula to your novel?
Fiction gives you one shot, not hinting the point, making it, and then reviewing.
~ Does your scene require special effects for clarity and intensity?
If so, revise your scene. Use your words.
~ Aren’t italics or bold legitimate in some instances?
            Of course, but you’ll do better pretending no such instances exist.
~ Have you revised enough to feel good about your manuscript?
Then let it speak for itself. Please.

If you’ve ever stood in a bookstore or used book sale checking novel after novel to see which ones you want, consider why you put some back. Though cloaked in many disguises, the issue is often “Too condescending—and I get enough of that at work.”

Whispering, insinuating, suggesting, demonstrating all beat bellowing. Every time. Bury the megaphone. Unclip the microphone. Try whispering. Is there really a better way to make people lean in and listen?

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.