Monday, April 12, 2010

Editing Ourselves

The Blue Dress, Paris I was at the grocery store (again) yesterday before taking ten kids to my son’s 13th birthday paintball party. I was buying lots of chips and soft drinks.

I saw a woman in the produce section and had one of those “oh no” moments where I desperately tried to come up with her name. And this was someone I was supposed to know. Could I hide? Retreat into the dairy section? Shoot! She saw me…

Then suddenly it came to me. “Peggy!!” I said with delight. “How are you, Peggy? And Peggy….how is your son? Have y’all had a good spring break, Peggy?”

Because, if I’m that proud of myself for remembering a name, I’m by-golly going to overuse it like a maniac. Whereas she, after greeting me with a “Hi, Elizabeth” once, didn’t mention my name again. Clearly, she doesn’t have the same memory problems that I do.

I laughed at myself on the way back home, because overusing names is a dialogue problem I’m prone to. Before emailing my WIP to my editor, I make a pass to make sure the characters aren’t referring to each other by name multiple times in the course of a conversation. It’s a useful device for a writer because it eliminates the need for ‘said Johns’ during the section of dialogue.

But it’s just not natural. Ordinarily.

Do you have particular issues that you have to guard for and edit out? Mistakes you’re prone to make?