Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Stop Shouting Already! by Marvin D Wilson

Just a short post today, and an invitation to comment and discuss.

This has to do with all fiction, not just specifically the mystery book, but I do see it a lot in novice mystery novelists that I read ... the overuse of exclamation points. As if yelling your story to me will add to the intensity, the mystery, the suspense, the overall gripping nature of your tale. You know, passages like-

"Oh my god! It's a vampire!" Joan screamed. She had to hurry - it was fast gaining on her! "Help!" she hollered to no one, and thought, There's nobody to come to my aid ... I'm doomed!

Puh-leease. You are not getting me worked up and excited with your story that sounds like a constantly barking dog. It's kind of like the parent who yells at his or her kids all the time. After a while, the children become numb to the decibel level and just ignore the shouts. Takes a hammer over the head to get their attention. On the other hand, a parent who always speaks in an even tone and exhibits steady self control only has to raise their voice a little bit to get the kids' undivided attention. Woa - they perk up and think, better pay attention. Mom hardly ever raises her voice like that.

And so it is with any good writing, and particularly with mystery/thriller/suspense novels. Restraint, self control, and a guided steady slow build to the intensity is far better, and an indication of masterful writing, than is constantly resorting to over writing through the easy use of loud punctuations.

What say you all?


Mark Troy said...


Jean Henry Mead said...

I'm reminded of an old brokerage commercial on TV that said, "When someone whispers, everyone listens."


L. Diane Wolfe said...

You are absoluely right - it's like emails with ALL CAPITAL LETTERS. That's shouting, too.

L. Diane Wolfe

Hagelrat said...

I HATE WHEN PEOPLE SHOUT ALL THE TIME. ok I should have resisted that. I agree though, as a reader.

Mark Troy said...

This article reminds of a short story by Michael Bracken that makes extensive use of explanation marks. In typesetting, an exclamation mark is called a "bang." Here's the story.

The Shootout.

Click. "Damn"

Notice that the guy who applied some self restraint in his !s won.

Anonymous said...

Mark - LOL, good one. :)

Jean - I remember that one too.

Hagelrat - way to make a point. Tee hee.

Diane, yes - All Caps is another form of screaming at people, for sure.

The Old Silly From Free Spirit Blog

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Oh, great points, Marvin. I feel it's so distracting to read something that's dotted with exclamation points. Maybe non-writing readers don't feel the same way, but for me it kills the story.

Mystery Writing is Murder

Libby McKinmer said...

Absolutely one of my pet peeves as an editor and a reader.


Libby McKinmer
Romance with an edge
Also on Twitter, GoodReads & Facebook

Morgan Mandel said...

That kind of stuff is great for camp followers - like Flash Gordon serials and such, or Night of the Living Dead, but no serious reader will buy a book with over-exaggeration in it, at least not the second time if they get fooled once.

Morgan Mandel

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Dana Fredsti said...

Frankly, overuse of exclamation points, especially when combined with 'she screamed' don't even work in Night of the Living Dead. Totally agree with you, MM!