Rambling is a pet peeve of mine, and I’m somewhat hypocritical for holding that view.
I was reminded of this last night watching a movie with my wife. Did you ever see ‘Sideways’? It’s a movie about two friends who go on something of a last hurrah into California wine country before one of them gets married. One of the characters, a writer, gets asked what the book he’s working on is about. His explanation starts off OK, but it devolves. He goes all over the place. His hands move excitedly as he jumps from plot point to plot point. Even he looks confused after a bit.
My wife looked at me, asked, “Yeah, why do writers do that?”
It was a familiar scene to her, one I’ve been at the front and center of several times. I write fiction for fun, some pieces lengthier than others – I guess you could call them novels – and when she has asked about the story, instead of giving a concise, bullet point answer, I turn into a literature professor who just shotgunned several Red Bulls.
Ramble. Ramble. Segue. Hop, skip. Turn yourself around. Ramble. Twitch. What should be easy turns into a treatise on everything, everything, everything.
The only answer I offered to her question was that I probably fear like a bare bones rundown would make the story sound unoriginal, like I would be doing a disservice to whomever has asked me if I didn’t offer EXPLICIT detail on how my story is…different. Even though they could not care less.
Succinctly put, I think some writers have a tendency to overcomplicate the simple. A description of a cluttered mess may not be as clean and slick as something organized and picturesque, but at least it gets people’s attention. That’s the hope, anyway.
I want to change that trend among over-sharers with a a new Mail Tribune writing contest that just launched.
I’d like you to tell me a story in no more than 55 words. Not 60. Not 56. Fifty-five. We plan on publishing our top three favorites in the Sept. 8 Mail Tribune, along with a People’s Choice winner that receives the most reader votes.
So visit www.mailtribune.com/55words and give it a try. When you’re done, you’ll have a lot less plot to describe to anyone who asks.