Thursday, April 25, 2013

Vague: a Horror Word for Writers

Vague. Definition: Of uncertain, indefinite, or unclear character or meaning: "patients with vague symptoms". Thinking or communicating in an unfocused or imprecise way: "he had been vague about his activities.”
I won’t be vague; this is a writer’s horror word! This word and its synonyms: indistinct or indefinite, are words I NEVER want applied to me as a writer much less my work, especially in dialog. 

Would you write a conversation like this? 
            “Do much yesterday?”
“Nothin’ much. How ‘bout you?”
“How’s the family?”                                       
“Guess they’re all just fine.”
The only time I ever saw this work—and it only worked because it was making fun of being vague or indistinct—was on the Andy Griffith Show. It was clever there because of the timing and set up. Normally, however, we as writers avoid this kind of dialog like rotten road pizza. Have you ever caught yourself being lazy and writing something maybe not this bad, but at least something so vague or boring that when you look at it again you have to ask yourself where your brain was that day?
There are times as writers we are purposely vague about details and plot twists in our stories because we want to pique reader’s interest, involve them, so we leave things out or write in a way that leaves different interpretations available to the reader. But we are never vague about how we write those scenes and certainly not in dialog. 
Does this dialog draw you in?

“What makes you smile,” he asked.
“A reflection.”
“Maybe. Why don’t you want to know my name?”
“I have no need of it.”
“Names belong to another world.”
She closed her eyes.
He ran his thumb down the length of her face. “Don’t think. Open your eyes. Stay with me.”

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  1. Very Vague, Lisa. Good post.

    1. Thanks Cathrina, glad to have you stop by and comment!

  2. I agree...while, sometimes, vagueness can be pulled off it's best left to being used sparingly.

    1. Yes, now I'm over to your blog, behind schedule today as "real" life got in the way!

  3. 'rotten road pizza' - loved that! Nothing vague about that! The road directions? Vague. The dialogue? Great!
    Lovely post Lisa thank you!
    Susan Scott's Soul Stuff

  4. You are so welcome, and thanks again for dropping by. I almost wrote about Vacuum also... I can so relate to what you wrote on your blog about that...


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