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Writing tip: Don’t overuse uncommon gestures and actions

Posted by Maria Murnane | April 19, 2016

I recently read a novel in which multiple people winked at the protagonist in the opening pages. I found this quite odd. When was the last time someone winked at you? When was the last time more than one person winked at you? I don’t think anyone has ever winked at me.

If someone you know did this ALL THE TIME, would you be annoyed?

As I read on, the winking continued, and soon it was joined by a lot of giggling, which also jumped out at me because everyone in the story was an adult, and I don’t know many adults who giggle. But on it went, and by the end of the book I was so tired of the winking and the giggling that I had my Kindle count how many times each appeared in the book.

The tally? There were 35 winks and 44 giggles in a story that takes place over a few weeks. That’s a lot of winking and giggling­, especially in a book that I don’t think was supposed to be funny.

Here’s the takeaway: When writing an entire book, it’s impossible not to repeat some common gestures or actions (e.g., smiled, walked, nodded), but when the gestures are the kind you don’t encounter very often in real life, overusing them can distract your readers from the story. That’s unfortunately what happened with the novel in question. I tried to enjoy the plot, I really did, but all that winking and giggling was hard to ignore, and as a result I did a lot of eye rolling. I love a good eye roll, but I try not to include more than one or two in a book so as not to dilute the effect.

I’ll forever remember that novel as the wink and giggle book. Maybe you will remember this post as the wink and giggle blog. If it helps you to be more careful about overusing those kinds of actions in your own work, then great!



This blog post originally appeared on Reprinted with permission. © 2016 CreateSpace, a DBA of On-Demand Publishing, LLC. All rights reserved.



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