Monday, July 4, 2011

Keeping Your Writing Fashionable and Functional

by J. Lea Lopez

Fake pockets are the bane of my fashionable existence. Nothing’s worse than going to stash my bank card or chapstick, only to encounter resistance. No pocket for you! It’s a disappointment, to say the least. Words can scarcely describe the letdown. Don't let this same thing happen in your writing! You should be aware of Fake Pocket Syndrome (FPS), to avoid irritating your readers and turning them off of your story.

Fake pockets promise, but don’t deliver. So your hero is a tough manly man who finds himself relying on the aid of a sultry vixen to accomplish his mission. The entire book is rife with sexual tension, but in the end the two shake hands and part ways like old drinking buddies. I call FPS! You can’t string a reader along like that and not follow through. I’m not saying you have to write a torrid bedroom scene, but they had better at least kiss, or you need to at least allude to what we’re all expecting to happen. If your significant other spends an hour getting you worked up, then heads to the bedroom and ... goes to SLEEP, you’d be pretty pissed, wouldn’t you?

Fake pockets have no function. Even their aesthetic function is questionable. If you’re going to do horrible things to the shape of my bum by slapping a set of flap pockets back there, there had better be some payoff—like a place to put my credit card and ID when I don’t want to carry a purse. If your book starts with a character going on for two paragraphs about what she ate the day before, there should be a good reason for that. And sorry, but “I thought it was funny” is not good enough. For example, maybe she’s a hypochondriac who woke up with a slight cough and is convinced that something she ate was tainted and has given her a horrible disease. Well now, that could be an interesting introduction to your character. But if her eating habits have nothing to do with anything, why are you boring the rest of us by detailing them? Also, just because a passage “sounds nice” doesn’t make it relevant. Sometimes you gotta kill your darlings. It’s up to you, though, and if you can really justify something, keep it.

Fake pockets take time and energy to create. Having no pocket at all would be quicker, easier, and more cost-effective. And in the case of the awful flap pockets mentioned above, it would also be much more attractive. Save yourself and your editor some time and effort, and be aware of FPS from the beginning, and avoid it at all costs. The less junk you put in, the less you’ll have to cut out later on.

So take a long hard look at your manuscript. Are you a victim of FPS? Fear not, with a few snipped stitches here and there, you’ll have those pockets functional in no time.


Eli Ashpence said...

Fake Pockets SUCK. Why, oh WHY, do designers add them?

Sorry, had to get that out. Great post. Good points. I'm a repeat offender in my writing, but I've gotten better about multitasking with my scenes.

Nora said...
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NarmI said...
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J. Lea Lopez said...

I know, Eli!! My poor husband (or whoever is with me at the time, always gets an earful when I discover them haha. What's worse are the pockets that are actually REAL but have been seen shut so they're rendered non-functional.

But oh yeah.... we're supposed to be talking about writing here.... lol.

Jean Oram said...

FPS-I love it. It is a very real syndrome. In writing and in real life. Glad to hear it is easy to fix! (Now that I can see it.)

Happy Independence Day!

I'm off to iron down those silly pocket flaps on my new shorts. (Okay, not really. I'll just keep folding them under all day hoping they'll straighten out--I'm much better when I edit. Pulling out the iron when writing is always worth the effort.)

greenwoman said...

LOL! I love this analogy, seriously! It works really well . . . maybe because I, too, despise fake pockets! Bravo!

Jemi Fraser said...

Love it! I'm another despiser of Fake Pockets!! I need to carry work keys with me at all times at work. I go to throw my keys in &... Grrr!

Same thing in writing! I'm going to have to check for FPS on my rewrite!

J. Lea Lopez said...

@Jean - Trust me, no matter how much you iron them down, the corners curl up anyway. On shorts, anyway. In writing hopefully they stay gone once you smooth them away lol.

@greenwoman - Thanks! Glad you liked it.

@Jemi - I hear you on the keys! It's frustrating. We're all united in our hatred of fake pockets! :)

petemorin said...

Great post. So:

I have a detective who is a recovering sex addict. One of the suspects is a sultry older woman who has no morals, scruples or conscience but a boatload of money and sex appeal. She plays him throughout the entire story, but he won't bite (so to speak). The interplay between them increases slowly throughout, and their dialogue is rife with double entendre (sex/suspect) as it becomes more apparent that she is indeed culpable.

I rather think these are DEEP pockets. What say you, JLL?

J. Lea Lopez said...

PETE! Did you just give away the whodunit?? :-P

But yes, those are definitely deep pockets. No FPS there. There's purpose and implications for the sexual tension. Being that he's a recovering sex addict and she's a suspect, I think the reader will be rooting for him to resist her all the way.

petemorin said...

JL - I said she was "culpable," not "guilty."