X is for Xenophthalmia

Gesundheit? Probably need all the help they can get! So, let’s go with it.

Xenophthalmia has finally graduated from merely saline drops to prescription eye drops. What is it? Dry eye.

Cricket Chirping

Chirp Chirp

Throughout the A to Z Challenge, one under-riding current to all of the posts was the foregone conclusion you wrote a book which would not dry out your readers’ eyeballs with oppressive descriptions, underdeveloped characters and a plot line which forces readers to weather dry spells of 30 pages or more to get to an event worth reading. Raising one’s eyebrow for eight pages inhibits the ability to blink.

Do you know if you skipped something? Or did you find out in beta? Consider deconstruction. Do wear eye protection.


In order for your WIP not to RIP, look at what you did do. Even if you are a stream of consciousness writer, you can benefit from a bit of organization. Plotters will do portions (or all) of this in advance. It works in reverse, which gives you an additional pass to correct mistakes and oversights.

Where are we?

One thing which can seriously hamper a story line is inconsistencies in location. This applies to stories which occur in one location and across the globe. Characters must move visibly. Characters should also move in only three dimensions (for the sake of your reader’s understanding).

Not over there ==>

Not over there ==>

For instance, if Kate goes from home to the grocery and passes Avery’s house, it makes no sense for Avery to ask Kate to pick something up for him since she is closer. (D’oh!) Even if you are directionally-challenged or have never drawn a dungeon, you can draw a map of your book. (Try poster board. More room for notes.)

Are there FAB world landmarks in your book? Download pictures of them so you have an accurate basis for your descriptions. Even if you have been there, the photographs will (jog, correct) your memory.

When your scenes primarily take place in the kitchen, you need to know something about building codes. Truly. During conversations, your characters will

  • stomp
  • amble
  • run
  • stumble
  • be carried
  • wheel themselves

out of the room. Be sure there are enough walls.

If your characters can reach more than four other rooms from the main room, your house could be a candidate for Extreme Home Makeover. You also want to be sure the door to the butler’s closet does not migrate around the room. Does anyone remember the stray coffee table? Get to the drawing board.

Flash cards are a good way to remember what props you have. Consider it an inventory of items your characters can lean against, throw, smash, smuggle, hide secrets in, talk to or throw away.

Who are these people?

letter xCharacters make the story up as they go along. You really need to know who they are: emotionally, ethically, physically, temperamentally, maturity level, age, education, corporate background, criminal tendencies, marriages, childhood traumas. Sketching your characters should be very revealing. In advance, some of the plot will begin to form. In deconstruction, you may catch something you overlooked.


The brunette dish who is going to foil the bank robbery walks in, and the guy manning the security camera whistles and tells his partner he loves petite women. When the bad guys get there (and are not vertically-challenged), she cannot brandish a weapon towering over anyone who is not supine.

Even if you have stick-figure level talent, you can create pictures of your characters or download appropriate pictures (raid your yearbook, flip through old family albums, copy the police blotter) to give you a reminder of your character’s physical traits. It will keep you from having someone pull the hair of a person who had a flat top a chapter ago.

Curriculum Vitae

blue tooth logoYour hero comes across a body in the bushes, checks for a pulse, begins CPR and screams into his Blue Tooth for 911. While he waits, he constructs a tourniquet from a stick and his wife beater, whips out his Cross pen and Swiss army knife and performs a tracheotomy. He is some hero. Why is he flipping burgers for a living and what possessed him to put a Cross pen and a Swiss army knife into his track suit pants?

If you never reveal he was dishonorably discharged as a surgeon because of a reckless night of drunken debauchery after a grueling ambush-resultant surgical session and subsequently lost his license to practice, your reader is going to wonder if a portion of the book is missing.


Your protagonist’s BFF claps her on the back and says, “Let’s go get lemon ices!” Why is she suggesting sweets in response to your heroine admitting she has just broken up with the man to whom she has been married for 41 years? If your character forgoes the accepted emotional response of (commiseration, support, outrage), let your reader know BFF’s parents were the Roses.

Yes, your reader has a terrific imagination. Rather than leave out-of-character responses to the reader to choose between you and the character as to who is more disturbed, give some foundation or provide an explanation.

Check Your Work

Even with really good deconstruction (or prep work) your book can still not be complete. As you read your book, make your notes only from what is in your book. Check the action against the skeletal information on your notes.

  • Does this reaction match what you have established or is it revealed in the next few pages?
  • Did you forget to explain your character grew up with the nickname Fozzy, which is why he is sensitive about his curly locks?
  • What caused the arrested state of development of your eccentric executive who initiated a video-game interval to replace tea time?


blue pencilMerely copying your notes and sketches into the book is not going to be entertaining for the reader. You are telling and not showing. Work setting and scenery into the book gently.

Conversely, making tangential allusions to significant character-altering events without leaving enough breadcrumbs for your reader to get from Mongolia to Tahiti will make your manuscript appear flaky and incomprehensible.

Drop it!

If you find your characters or setting are heavier than your story line, cut them. Yes, edit out events which are merely tangents. If the character or setting’s past is relevant, establish it earlier rather than making a right in Albuquerque. If your event is relevant to another book, move it. Tangents and hooks are different species.

Yes, edit out excessively long descriptions which are merely background, history or asides. Other than being boring, it can come across as condescending. Your reader may feel as though you think they are too uninformed to know the location or unable to understand without all of your excruciating minutiae.

Remember, your readers are not going to have your note cards to understand the book. They only have what you put in the manuscript.

Wrap it up!

  1. Map your world and setting.
  2. Sketch and know your characters.
  3. Accurately convey setting within the normal course of action.
  4. Explain out-of-character responses or change them.
  5. Establish exceptions early rather than using asides.
  6. Edit out what is not necessary.

How can deconstruction help you prepare for sequels? Would you prefer the history at the beginning or as a tangential aside in the last half of the story? Where is the line between suspense and withholding information?

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  1. Great advice, Red….I am realizing more and more that writing effectively really is a very delicate balancing act. Detailing mechanical assembly of any book or storyline may work for formulaic type writing, but with thought-stream writing that happens to be character-driven —that same process can also be a story-killer–distracting to a point where the process stops.
    I suspect with this type of storyline writing the concept of deconstruction after-the-fact–a great idea, by the way– may not only be far smarter, but simpler. At least the story is written.

    About details, there are always inclusions in any story that, for specific reasons, should not be removed. The balance between excessive -vs. essential detail can be critical if details are also intended to serve a specific or subliminal purpose other than extra word count.
    Hm…..maybe hunt the writer down and shake a few times, but also try hard not to kill the messenger– a book, after all, in some respects is a message that should be left meaningful. Improved and concise as possible, –but still intact.
    I think Binky said it best. That balance point, at times, might be a subject for an interesting debate.
    raymond alexander kukkee recently posted..A-Z Challenge: Y is for Your, You’re, and YoreMy Profile

  2. Red, I am not sure if it is a good idea to get to know the zombies intimately, but I will take your leadership onboard and see where it leads me 🙂

    Running for ones life springs to mind here 🙂 lol

    Have a wicked one today my great friend and well done on your A to Z offerings, you have pushed the envelope and given everyone something very interesting to read along the journey 🙂

    Andro xxxx

    • ROFL! Have you forgotten the author whose books are about treating their psychological problems after the apocalypse? LMAO!

  3. Thanks Red,
    It’s not like me to answer with a few words but you have answered everything for me in this post. 🙂
    Phil recently posted..The importance of sharing.My Profile


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