Tuesday, 20 October 2009

The Banned List #1

An occasional series of things that should be banned in creative writing...
1. No character should be allowed to "smirk". You would be amazed just how many characters smirk. Sometimes they smirk several times in consecutive sentences. Sometimes all of the characters smirk, in all of their scenes, all of the time. They even manage to avoid speaking; instead they smirk. "How are you?" he smirked. "Fine,"she smirked back at him. I imagine them sounding like end-of-the-pier ventriloquists, speaking through tight, smirking mouths. "Gottle of geer?" he smirked. "Gow agout a glow gob?" "I good," she smirked back, "Gif guy good get gy guluddy gowf gopen gide genough."

2. Solitary tears. Where have these characters learnt such self-control of their tear ducts? I weep and turn into a big, bawling, snotty mess. I have never managed to squeeze out a solitary tear. Nevermind one that trickles slowly down my cheek. Perhaps I am irrationally jealous of such sophisticated shows of emotion? Give me a pained expression over a solitary tear any day. (Though, to be honest, I'd rather have neither).

3. Eye colours do not characterise. Why do so many writers insist on including piercing or startling blue eyes? What does all this blueness tell us about a character? (Startling green eyes don't do much for me either). How often do we actually notice eye colour? I've just spent a fortune on lotions and potions in Harvey Nicks and not one person has commented on how startling or piercing my eyes look - curse that saleswoman and her theories about the colour wheel.

4. Some characters really do not know what to do with their hands so they either light cigarettes or run their fingers through their hair. Sometimes they run their fingers through their hair having forgotten that they are already holding a cigarette. And if they've been profligate with the hair lacquer, then WHOOSH! It's an accident waiting to happen... And no author ever mentions just how messy their characters' hair is looking after it's been rummaged through for several pages.

5. Only sounds. On a par with solitary tears. "The only sound was the beat of his heart/ her footsteps on the cobbles/ the clock ticking". (You'd be amazed just how often clocks ticking are the only sound). Well, I bet it blimmin' wasn't.


  1. I put gin, which is the highest mark, because I hate champagne and love gin.

  2. I like the stuff that rough sailors drink.

  3. Rough sailors drink rum. Gin is reserved for the Ward Room.

  4. Gin is for Gordon, unless Gordon is gay, in which case it's Scotch - a case of scotch.

    I was accused of smirking once.

    Not TCP (spit out, don't swallow)

  5. Champagne tonight, real pain tomorrow!

  6. Well, thank you all for that enlightening journey around your cocktail cabinets. I'm not sure I'm any the wiser...