4 Ways to Avoid ‘Yuck!’


The other day, I opened my front door to a headless bunny.

It was another present from DC, my cat, who was just sharing. Although I appreciate DC’s generosity, it really isn’t my thing.

It got me thinking about how writers may have the best intentions to share information, but how those intentions can go wrong.

In DC’s mind, she was doing great things. So how can a writer avoid the sometimes mistaken idea that what she writes is being well received? How can she avoid sharing with a cat’s attitude and getting “yuck” for her efforts?

Just because you think something is a great idea doesn’t mean everyone thinks it is. DC saw the bunny as a nice, juicy tidbit–a gourmet meal. Writers must avoid the “me”-centered attitude. It’s all about the audience, the readers. If their needs aren’t met, all the writing in the world can’t force them to accept the information.

Make sure you evoke the right emotion. DC was convinced I’d be really pleased and grateful. Those were not my initial emotions.  How can writers bring out the desired reaction? The first step is to determine exactly what we want our readers to feel. Is it longing? Is it satisfaction? Then we carefully choose the words that will create a mind picture that resonates with those emotions.

Let the writing “cook” awhile before presenting it. DC’s into fresh meat. Writers, on the other hand, need to put aside those first drafts to clear their minds. In the heat of writing, we are often too close to what we’re writing for an objective assessment. We need a little distance for effective revision.

Learn and move on. When I didn’t immediately gobble up DC’s little present, she didn’t let it go to waste. If we don’t get quite the reaction we expect from our writing, we should evaluate why, learn from it, and use that knowledge in the future.

Our best intentions—whether by a cat or a writer—sometimes don’t get the reactions we expect. For cats, the world always operates in feline fashion. Writers can’t afford that attitude. We have audiences to satisfy.


Weekend Wrinkle: That’s Not Normal!

Re-posted from “The Word Tweaker’s Tipsheet.”

Curtis trotted into the house, dropped his backpack at the back door, and charged into the kitchen. He was starving after a busy but productive day at school.

On the counter, sitting in the middle of a plate, was a big chocolate chip cookie, his favorite. Next to it was a note: “Went to the store. Be right back. Mom.”

Curtis smiled. The crease along the middle of the cookie meant it was homemade.

“Yum!” he thought as he reached for his treat.

When his fingers were an inch from his cookie, an eye opened up in the middle of it! Curtis froze in disbelief. The green, watery eye in the cookie considered Curtis calmly. Then it blinked.Eye in Chocolate Chip Cookie

 Almost on its own, Curtis’s body turned and flew to the door. He tripped over his backpack, picked himself up, and ran screaming into the street.

The best horror stories are the ones that take something totally innocuous and turn it into something surreal.

Most people, whether they want to admit it or not, like things to be “normal.” They don’t like things challenging their expectations – except when they want to be entertained.

As we head toward Halloween, we expect the unusual, even crave it. We seek out the abnormal – in carefully controlled and choreographed circumstances, of course.

Writers often think outside the norm. They look at things and can see the unexpected or unusual. They put these different perspectives before the public and help change the way people look at life. Sometimes it’s temporary, but the best writers will show us a different side of things that stays with us, sometimes haunts us.

Writers should pat themselves on the back. The world needs their differentness; it keeps us honest.

Just think of that the next time you reach for a chocolate chip cookie!