Monday, October 12, 2009

Shirt and Shoes Required

Wurstfest is a local fall festival billed as Oktoberfest, Texas style!

Yesterday I sent the link to their site to a friend. On the site's General Information page, it states: "PROPER ATTIRE: Shirts and shoes are required attire for festival patrons."

Nothing about pants.

Does this mean we can go pantless? Try it. I dare you.

Nothing about skirts, either. Or things we might wear underneath. Or accessories.

While some of us - people whose lives revolve around words and teens looking for rebellion, as examples - might take this and run with it or at least giggle, all of us know what it means.

It means if you're ripped, don't show it off at Wurstfest. And they don't want to see any beer bellies, either. Cover them up. And don't show up barefoot.

This is a simple example of leaving out the plodding details that every reader understands.

If your protagonist is driving and parks her car, we don't need to know she turned off the key, pulled it out, unbuckled her seatbelt, grabbed her purse, opened the door, slid out from behind the steering wheel, stood up, closed the door, put the keys in her purse, and took a step.

We get it.

All we need to say is Mary Alice parked her car and walked to the front door. Or whatever she does.

The only time you need details is if you're slowing down time and building suspense.

If Mary Alice is driving to the house where she thinks she will find her husband and best friend locked in a steamy embrace, then you can use those details to get into Mary Alice's head and know her state of mind when she finally reaches the door.

Mary Alice cut her lights when she turned onto Nina's street. By the time she was in front of her house, she had slowed to five miles per hour to reduce the engine noise. Instead of pulling into her driveway, she parked at the curb. For a minute she sat still, breathing deeply, trying to calm her nerves. It didn't work. Nerve endings jabbed through her skin, and she couldn't sit still. How dare Nina betray her. How dare she seduce Ron away, even if it wasn't his first time to break their vows. She disabled the interior lights, opened the door, and closed it without a sound. The better to surprise you, my dears. At Nina's door, she pulled her little Beretta Tom Cat from her purse. Then she used the spare key Nina had given her years ago to enter the darkened house.

See how that works?

8 comments:

Elspeth Antonelli said...

How how I agree! Second by second details can ramp up the suspense just as well as eerie cello music starting to play in a movie soundtrack. Meaningless details are just (in my opinion) a waste of words.

Your thoughts about the "shirt and shoes" requirements gave me a nice giggle. Do let us know if anyone takes it literally!

Elspeth

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

That is hilarious! Detail clutter.

I went to Oktoberfest on Saturday with my kids, husband, sister, and brother in law. Sooo much fun. My 3rd grade daughter was enamored with the accordion player.

We all had pants on. :)

Elizabeth
Mystery Writing is Murder

Conda V. Douglas said...

Good reminder, Carol--and I'm reminded of when "moving pictures" first came out and you had to show EVERYTHING--now it's such a shorthand sometimes I'm not sure what I'm seeing!

Carol Kilgore said...

Elspeth - If I spy a shirtless, shoeless Superman, I'll be sure and let you know.

Elizabeth - Would that be an accordion crush or a crushed accordion? Glad everyone wore pants.

Conda - I'm not a student of film, so I can't comment about the old ones showing everything. But I do know things change, as you've noticed.

Jane Kennedy Sutton said...

Great example at the end of the post - I'm ready to read more!

I look forward to finding out how the festival patrons dress for the occasion!

Carol Kilgore said...

Thanks. Maybe I'll keep it as a jumping off point for something.

The festival is next month, so I'll try to remember to post about it.

Helen Ginger said...

Ahh man, shirts are required this year at Wurstfest? Kinda takes the fun out of it.

Very good example, Carol. You could feel the tension building.

Helen
Straight From Hel

Carol Kilgore said...

No ogling :)

I'm happy the example worked.