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Interrupted Thoughts

I sat down at the computer to write a blog post when I started thinking… Gosh, it’s really weird how I’m writing this blog post on March 8th, but it won’t be posted until March 14th, because I’m loading my blog up ahead of my trip to Paaaaaaaaaaaaaris! Wow. I can’t believe I go to France tomorrow. An eleven-hour direct flight from San Francisco. I’m going to go stircrazy on that plane, and then I’ll have to navigate the Métro. Can’t complain, though! It’s Paris, after all. Hmm. I wonder if my readers know that I’m writing from the past. What will it be like on March 14th? That day, I’ll be in Beaune, the heart of Burgundy wine country. Mmm…wine country…

A noise from the hall sneaked into my thoughts, pulling me out of my reverie about pinot noir. “That’s right!” I muttered to myself. “I’m supposed to be writing a blog post!”

***

It’s difficult to describe disconnecting a character from his thoughts. This action is usually laden with cliché after cliché after cliché. Voices sneaking into thought. Dialogue snapping a character out of their thinking. Noises startling. Talk of reveries (as you can see above). Fog and/or haze lifting. Being lost in thought. And on and on.

I’m sick of all of them, basically. I would recommend that you avoid this altogether. If a noise is going to come from the hall mid-thought, describe it, then jump back into narrative. If dialogue intrudes, show us the dialogue, and then get into the swing of things, maybe with one descriptive phrase so the transition isn’t so jarring. Just like you should eliminate the frame, you don’t need to tell us that thoughts have been interrupted. Give us the thoughts. Give us the interruption. Then give us the results. It’s that simple. The narrative of the thought actually stopping is fluff that should be easy to trim.

An example:

Blah blah blah. Wine country. France. Thinking thinking thinking.

“Mary, write your blog post already!” Mary said, rolling her eyes.

“Oh!” Mary wondered how long she’d been spacing. “Duh. Thanks, Mary!”

There’s that one descriptive phrase in there, to get the reader back into the action, but you could even do without it because the “Oh!” conveys surprise or a startled feeling. This issue is a very small nitpick, but, as I said, every word and every phrase counts in your writing.

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  1. F.T. Bradley’s avatar

    Some good advice; I might just use an ‘oh’ somewhere…

    Burgundy wine country… Envious. Enjoy!

  2. Amy U'Ren’s avatar

    Great post! I’m editing my dark YA book at the moment, ready to send to agents, and it’s definitely something to look out for.

  3. Man O' Clay’s avatar

    Like you said in your last post, trim the unnecessary – it’s just so difficult to see sometimes!

  4. Julie Daines’s avatar

    Hope you’re having a great time in France! Last time I was in Paris, I threw a frisbee off the Eiffel Tower. LOL

  5. PK Hrezo’s avatar

    Enjoy the delicious food and wine! And of course, the beautiful city of lights. Thanks for all the great writing tips!

  6. Damon Dean’s avatar

    Thanks Mary for the thoughts on thoughts; I am so often interrupted by things – - hey, that looks like a French frisbee going by – - and I have to wrestle my mind back into the stream of things – - oh, I haven’t had my nightly chardonnay yet – - but my mind wrestles back – - what’s that dog scratching for – - so yes, a reality of writing.

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