The Blurt

No, I’m not talking about blurbs, the juicy quotes you try and get as a soon-to-be author that (may or may not) help sell your book. Though I probably should at some point, because it’s a pretty hot topic in the publishing world and ahuge source of anxiety for new authors. This post is actually about the action of blurting. No, I haven’t run out of things to talk about. I have about 100 ideas in the “soapbox file” on my computer. (Lucky you!) I know this sounds very specific, but, as usual, I have a larger point to make by delving into something small.

You know those times when you open your mouth and…the worst possible thing just seems to fall out, as if on its own. I know I’ve had this happen. A few times. Usually during fights with my mother. And I hear about it for the rest of my natural life. Ha! Well, in addition to this happening a lot to me, I’ve noticed that it happens quite a bit with fictional characters. A lot of big events in manuscripts I’ve seen seem to spin on characters blurting. The big secret. That they love the guy. That they’re not who they say they are.

I understand the urge to throw one’s arms up and hinge an important scene on a blurt. It’s easy. Your character would never do something so silly until, she just does it! You know how that goes, Reader. Sometimes ya just run your mouth! But here lies the problem. It’s careless and unintentional and often feels like a cheat. Especially if blurting is out of character for your blurter (new word). It tells me that the writer needed certain information to emerge but didn’t know how to go about it. This technique is especially disappointing when the character has, elsewhere, been in control of themselves with interiority and being present and vulnerable with the reader. A blurt under those circumstances just feels wrong and a little too convenient.

So how do you get around the blurt clichĂ©? If you think I’m going to say, “interiority,” you would be correct! You’re writing compelling MG and YA fiction with great access to your character’s thoughts, feelings, and reactions, yes? Great. Since you have spent time making your character mindful and aware, they must know that what they’re blurting will have ramifications. They will know the risks of confessing their love to their crush. They will know what awful things might happen if they let their true identity slip. They will think about it. And instead of blurting it once their author has painted himself in a corner, which is passive, they will make the choice to say it with intention, which is very much active.

Make the moment of your blurt a conscious turning point! Get in their heads when you feel tempted to blurt and have them make the decision to say the Big Deal thing instead. Anyone can blurt anything. But we will learn so much more about your character if they take the risk and do the stupid thing with full agency. If blurting is careless, then knowing the risks and going for the reveal full-bore is ballsy. And that’s the kind of action that gets me more invested in your character.

Are there any blurts in your manuscript? Can you make it work as a choice instead? How will that reel your reader in or reveal a new shade of your character?

Tags: ,

  1. Christina C.’s avatar

    This is so so true. I find when a character does something risky, something that can harm themselves or the ones they love, it says a lot about their personality that they’re willing to do something like that.

    It’s also a cop-out when a big secret is “overheard” by other characters instead of it being intentionally discovered or disclosed.

    Awesome post!! :)

    I’m so glad you have another 100 posts for us:)))

  2. Franz’s avatar

    I can think of two instances of this in my MS. Oops. Now I feel all blurty.

  3. Diana Jenkins’s avatar

    You are so right. Blurts can’t just be handy! Thanks for a great post.

  4. Jennifer Bardsley’s avatar

    Not blurts, but blurbs… One thing from the world of education that keeps bothering me the more I learn about writing is that K-8 teachers are being taught to teach incorrectly about blurbs.

    In the world of “Guided Reading”, kid’s are supposed to write book “blurbs”. But of course, they aren’t really writing blurbs. They are writing hooks or short summaries. Yet, the pedagogy books keep calling these blurbs.

    I ran into this again recently when I reviewed “Raising the Standards through Chapter Books”, by Sarah Collinge. That’s the program my son’s third grade classroom uses. His binder is full of “blurbs”, which are actually summaries. Argh!!!

Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>