Self-Editing #5: Say It, Don’t Think It

   Posted by: Faith   in Rye Thoughts

How many times have you told your audience that your character wondered something, rather than actually allowed her to wonder it for herself?

Yes, yes, I hear the “Faith, now you’re really confusing me…” voices out there, so here’s what I mean…


Jennifer looked around the room. She wondered why her brother couldn’t be bothered to clean up after himself, even when he knew their guests would arrive later today.

Corrected Example:

Jennifer looked around the room. Why didn’t Chris ever bother to clean up?


See what I mean? Rather than telling the reader that the character is wondering, you show it through a direct thought or through the deep third-person POV. This kind of thing crops up with things like:

    • he/she wondered
    • he/she knew
    • he/she thought
    • he/she considered
    • …etc…

I have a tendency to make this mistake ALL the time in first drafts, and spend a lot of time rephrasing sections of my character’s internal dialogue. It’s that pesky “tell” monster that I have to beat time and time again…

How about you… do you find your character ‘wonders’ and ‘knows’ a little too often on your pages?

This entry was posted on Saturday, August 28th, 2010 at 1:43 am and is filed under Rye Thoughts. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

2 comments so far


I keep removing these from my manuscript. I think I have them all out by now. I also point them out to people I’m cirtting. It took me a while to understand that if we’re reading from the character’s POV, we know that they’re thinking/wondering/considering etc. stuff.

August 31st, 2010 at 11:04 am

It’s tough, isn’t it! It’s a hard slog to get them all, but ultimately it makes the story read so much smoother and cleaner.

August 31st, 2010 at 9:14 pm

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