Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Snarky Cousin Is Back

Ah, my dearies, it appears that my cousin, The Style Maven, has run off somewhere. Perhaps with that charming-in-all-ways cabana boy that we saw last week at the club. I've called and called and looked and looked, but she is nowhere to be found. Of course, her mother, my dear Aunt Sadie, denies that her darling daughter would do such a thing, but I know my cousin better than her mother does.

Enough said about that before I let loose a little secret or two that I'd rather not. I'm sure my cousin will be back when she tires of her little "vacation," but in the meantime, I must do my best to continue in the fine tradition of writing lessons masked in humor and snark that she established oh so well here.

You may recall that  a few weeks ago, I wrote about body parts, that some authors move about all willy nilly - namely eyes - without giving a thought to the fact that eyes do not like to roll all over the place as if they have lost their sockets. Since then, I have stumbled rather unstylishly over some other awkward wordage in books I've been reading. Those annoying little issues pop up like those ugly weeds in my flower garden, and I would like to take a hoe to them. Unfortunately, the problems are in books that are already published, so I cannot take hoe, nor Blood-Red Pencil, to them. I must simply sigh and either move on with the reading or toss the book onto my worm farm and let those little buggers get to work on it.

First let's consider the ever-popular "shrugging shoulders." As if one would shrug with any other part of his or her body. One clever author once wrote, "He lifted one shoulder in a slight shrug." That, my dearies, is the only time one needs to add "shoulders" to the shrug. When there is something unusual going on. Otherwise, you must always just let your people shrug, and I do hope the paradigm will soon catch on. Then my blood pressure will no longer put me in danger of exploding as I settle in to enjoy another literary offering.

Dear, dear writers, the same restraint should be shown in regard to nodding heads. In the last opus I was attempting to enjoy, the characters were all so agreeable they were nodding their heads like little dashboard duckies almost on every page. I soon started yelling at the book, "Could you just stop already? What the hell else would people nod? Feet?"

Of  course, yelling did no good. So I took a blood-pressure pill, waited a moment and attempted to be a little more civil, "Please, dear writer, there is no need to tell the reader what your character is nodding. We get it. I'll say it again. WE GET IT. And don't continue to insult your reader's intelligence by being so precise in your description."

I'll admit it. Along about page 50 in that latest book, I was feeling a bit insulted. So instead of finishing the read and hopping over to Amazon to leave a glowing review, that book went to the worm farm, and they scarfed it right up. Too bad they can't type.

Perhaps writers have not stopped to really think about the fact that there is only one part of a body that nods. Or their defense is that other writers "nod heads" all the time. Fine. Ignore me. Do that if you will. But copying other writers may not put you on the road to literary success. And, as my mother used to say, "If other writers jumped in front of a train, would you?"

Actually, she said, "jump off a bridge," but as one kind editor here pointed out a few weeks ago, we should strive for originality in our writing.

Now, I must be off, as I do want to find my cousin's cabana boy. Not that I necessarily want to find my cousin, you understand. It's just my turn for a little vacation. Do wish me luck. Ta, ta.

Well, darn, Snarky Cousin has dashed off before scheduling her post. Although one could hardly blame her for her haste considering her quest. Again, we must thank Maryann Miller for noticing and making sure the post got scheduled.

Maryann Miller - novelist, editor and sometimes actress. She won her first writing award at age twelve with a short story in the Detroit News Scholastic Writing Awards Contest and continues to garner recognition for her short stories, books, and screenplays. You can find out more about Maryann, her books, and her editing services on her Website and her Amazon Author Pageread her  Blogand follow her on Facebook and Twitter.


  1. Snarky is good, especially when it comes to nodding heads and shrugging shoulders. But even without the heads and shoulders, nodding and shrugging can get mighty old if overused. I know from personal experience....my editor asked, "When did you start having all your characters shrug all the time?" This is why I love editors....I didn't see it in any of those revision and self-editing passes through my manuscript.

    1. Oh, I'm sure Snarky Cousin is about to send you a great big "thank you" for supporting editors, Patricia.

  2. Nodding my head in agreement as I chuckle.

  3. Love the reminder not to assume our readers are all three-year-olds who don't yet know that only heads nod and only shoulders shrug. :-)

    1. As soon as she's back from the vacation with the cabana boy, I'm sure Snarky Cousin will send you a "thank you," too, Linda.


The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. If a glitch is preventing you from commenting, visit our Facebook page and drop your wise words there: Blood-Red Pencil on Facebook