ne of the many things on the Don’t List of Writing is food. After you finish a first draft (especially a NaNowriMo draft), conventional wisdom says to go back and take out all scenes that include eating. That can be a very difficult task, but it’s smart. Most scenes with eating are there just to fill space. They are written when we’re not sure what else should happen. In Julia, I still have scenes with food, but that food really has to earn its keep: fried chicken and potato salad at a memorial service helps solidify the setting as in the south…and I don’t describe it paragraph after paragraph.
Recently, I received free copies of two YA fantasies. I read them this weekend (still trailing in my Goodreads Challenge, but I’m closing in) and I couldn’t help but noticed the amount of eating that happened. The first mention I could handle…after being in a coma for two days I’ll let you eat, but every couple of scenes they were back in the dining hall/grabbing coffee. Really? There is no other place where these characters could be having a conversation? Nothing else they could be doing…like something that showed me plot advancement rather than told me through conversation?
And it wasn’t just eating; there was a whole lot of cleaning going on. These female MCs took a lot of showers. Now, as a person who likes being clean, I appreciate their attention to hygiene. However, I don’t know why I have to know that they took a 10 minutes shower…or a 30 minute shower…or that she woke up and took a shower. I get it.
The other cleaning that pulled me from the story was of the more domestic variety. To be nice, when they were nervous, and when they were mad the female MCs all went on cleaning binges. Really? In college, I cleaned my dorm room to procrastinate writing my papers. But were those binges worth writing about? A brief paragraph to show my personality, maybe. Scene upon scene? No.
So, can I make an executive addition to the Don’t List of Writing? Cleaning in its many forms.