Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Be Specific

As a writer, I deal with words. As a reader, I deal with words. They’re part of me, and I’m very conscious about how I use them.

A few weeks ago, I had a patient that flipped my worldview upside down for a few seconds because of the way he interpreted my questions. Not because his answers were wrong, but because they were so vague that it was jarring.

I asked him everyday questions, ones that everyone I’ve ever asked hasn’t ever had a problem answering.

“How often are you in pain?”

His answer?

“Whenever I’m hurting.”

It’s a good answer, one that’s probably more correct than any other I’ve heard, but even so, it didn’t give me any information. Usually, I expect a response like "all the time" or "whenever I move."

“How long have you had that scab?”

“Ever since I got it.”

Every single one of his answers was like that. Vague, yet completely honest and correct. He wears his glasses when he can’t see, he’s been in the hospital since he went to the ER. Every single answer gave me no information whatsoever.

Then I started getting feedback on my first chapter of Commissioned. A few of my critiquers mentioned that it felt vague. Now, I know it’s not vague like my patient’s responses, but it makes me wonder. When I give bare descriptions, does it sound like that to the readers? Do they wish that I’d been more clear from the start?

What do I write?

The words that end up on the page.

Okay. Back to the drawing board. Chapter 1, here I come.