Confession: I’m Vague and Secretive

5337779196_990602b427_oI tend to keep a lot of secrets in my stories. It’s a bad habit. I mean, really, really bad. So bad that, after a long talk with a few of my critiquing buddies, I realized that I basically say a lot of nothing. It’s not exactly flowery writing; it’s just really… vague.

I’m so afraid of telling the reader too much too early, of leaving them with nothing to look forward to, that I’d start to hide things that shouldn’t be a secret at all.

Like a character’s back story.

Or details about the war they’re living through.

Or even what the characters (mostly minor ones) think about the happenings of their world.

It’s like a child holding all of her toys saying, “Not yet. You can’t play with them, now.”

And I think this is (partly) because it’s hard for me to write details. Let me give you some examples of the vague details I’ll write:

Characters will sit down at a table and eat “food”, drink “something” and talk around a topic. They’ll overhear a conversation about “unimportant things” and see “people”. They find “papers” with “stuff” on it and “drawings” with “information”.

I’m not saying that I don’t know the back story — I’ve written it down, several times, in various places — but for some reason, it never makes it to the document. In my mind, once I add those details, stereotypes get involved and a culture forms, it becomes particular to this character’s life, which most definitely opposes what other people think at times.

I forget, that’s the point.

I’m supposed to develop a culture with these characters and their world. They’re supposed to have an opinion about what’s going on around them. And (as I was told, several times) what they think is true may not really be the truth. So if it’s in their POV, I’m not telling lies and I’m not holding back. I’m simply telling you their version of the truth. And that’s the secret. Who’s truth is the ‘real’ truth?

So, when I reach page 100 and readers still don’t know what certain things are, there’s a serious problem. But I know how to fix it now, so I’m not too worried.

What about you? What’s your writing weakness?



4 thoughts on “Confession: I’m Vague and Secretive

  1. I tend to have the exact opposite problem. I get awfully damned wordy, overly descriptive, going on and on and on about what this is and what that is and where this came from and that came from. My first attempt at world-building ended with something that read more like a travel brochure entry for someplace I’ll never go. There’s got to be a balance between too little and too much!


  2. This is something i’m ALWAYS working on. I feel like one of the most useful bits of writing advice I’ve gotten was “Focus in. Closer. CLOSER.”, along with insistence that I practice my image work. No words ending in -ly and no general descriptors allowed! It’s not ‘food’ that they’re eating, it is OVERRIPENED GREEN PEARS. The building does not look ‘new’, it has SHINING STEEL SUPPORT BEAMS UNSULLIED BY FINGERPRINTS. Stuff like that.


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