Fictitious Innuendo

We got over the angst of figuring out when the story was overly explicative or hopelessly futile. Where exactly is the line between extraneous details and effective character development?


red wine glassDetailed settings can lend themselves to character development. In one of the examples, Ming vases were placed into a story where they stuck out like a sore thumb. Commentary was not even offered as to whether they matched the drapes. The author just inserted them because in the FAB world it would be nice to be able to decorate with centuries old porcelain.

Not only would it be nice, it can say something about your characters. El (Running from Hell with El) brought up some good examples of how a detail like a Ming Vase can add depth to a character and help readers associate. Bo (I’ve Been Thinkin’) added we should leave something to the reader’s imagination.


It is not necessary for you to get out a brick bat on your readers. They are perfectly capable of deducing where your story is going, who your characters really are and why events unfold in a particular manner.

Using props to enhance understanding of your characters and situations is a simple solution.

amber clock faceShe ranted and threw things for nearly half an hour. Suddenly, she stopped to smooth her skirt and hair. With a deep breath, she checked the clock. She had to be at the diner in eight minutes. Perhaps, this time she would get through to him.

After he left, she opened her grandmother’s silver compact. “He will never learn, and I have no interest in becoming a teacher,” she whispered to her doubting reflection. She snapped it shut before sliding it into the enormous handbag at her feet. The contents held enough information to convince him ignoring her was dangerous to not only his business but also his health.”

Here, the reflection lets us know she is being coy. She really is going to use her arsenal to teach him the lesson. Her handbag tells us a bit about her obsession to convince him. Rather than coming right out and calling her a stalker, the setting tattles on her.


An easy way for your setting to tattle is to personify it. Unless your story is fantasy, dialog would not be the best way to accomplish this. Instead, try giving the walls ears… or eyes.

The portrait of Marco’s grandfather placidly observed him cleaning blood from the slat floor. Had Joseph not been dead these last two decades, the prosecutor would certainly have called him as a witness in this and the other three cases.”

In two sentences, you have just revealed Marco as a serial killer, his grandfather as an upstanding man in contrast to his grandson and the prosecutor as a frustrated public servant with insufficient evidence to administer his duties.

Photographs of people and cameras in your setting are ways to give your reader another vantage on the scene.


Objects in the room can enhance mood or belie characters involvement in a scene without smashing your audience over the head.

Clarice stared at the painting above the divan while he droned on about what the lab results meant. He had asked her for an answer for the third time before she came back from her walk in the forest detailed on the canvas. She still did not understand his question, but wished he would bury her there when the time came.”

Clarice has found peace with her impending death despite his analytic questioning of her to see if she understands her predicament.

bouquetHe smashed the vase on the Queen Anne coffee table scattering glass and orchids across the art deco, faux-Oriental rug. Charles stalked into the study and unceremoniously dumped the telephone directory on the desk. In less than fifteen minutes he had hired a contractor to paint and remove all the wretched flowery wallpaper in the entire house. If she was leaving, he wanted no trace of her left in his house.”

Charles takes back control of his environment and his life in the matter of one telephone call. Your reader learns he allowed her to make herself at home even if he did not like the decor she chose.

Innuendo is a powerful tool in creating fiction. It allows authors to give deeper understanding to readers without using a narrator to chew the story up and spit it out.

Engage your reader’s imagination. It allows them to see people in their lives as the characters or move the characters into their own lives. They will better identify with your story line.

What other observations can be made in the excerpts? How are these techniques used to create more vivid comics, short stories and flash? Would you rather read stories which leave something to your imagination?

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Many thanks to El from Running from Hell with El and Bo of Gatorhead Comics and I’ve Been Thinkin’ for adding to today’s discussion. Audience participation pays off on The M3 Blog.

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  1. I just love reading period but when I read I want someone to be telling me their story. Some people, even when talking, go into so many details that you don’t really know if they are ever going to get to the point.
    Great blog today.
    Bo Lumpkin recently posted..Sleep Like A BabyMy Profile

    • Thank you. I have been guilty more than my fair share of times. I am hoping my recent forays into flash have helped me with some of my verbosity.

  2. I love the red herring and the innuendo in stories. I don’t like to be lead in a straight path to a forseeable conclusion. I also prefer complex, human characters who behave out of their expected roles at times. This is a great post, Red. Thank you for giving me food for thought the next time I sit down to write!
    Gail Thornton recently posted..FREE Cafe Comics – Bo LumpkinMy Profile

    • You are welcome. I too like to see there is more than one path. The stories which smash me over the head are the ones which I liken to the childrens car ride at the amusement park. No deviation and no unexpected turns. Boring. xxx

  3. I suppose it comes down to the craft of writing where you learn to add enough details to entice the reader, but not so much to overwhelm them. You need to paint the picture with as few strokes as possible, and every detail should have a purpose or it should be cut. Sometimes we may not realize the significance of something until much later, but it still should have a reason for being there.
    Binky recently posted..English as a Second LanguageMy Profile

    • My favorite parts are the ones which you figures out in the end why it was important to know it earlier. Unfortunately, it usually means I do not finish the book because I have already figured out where it is going.

  4. dear, Red,
    I agree. The “Reader” is SMART as hell…She does not need to be smashed over the head as if she is an idiot.

    Great Post! I Love. xx
    My Inner Chick recently posted..I Rise I Rise I RiseMy Profile

  5. Lajos Egri’s books, “The Art of Dramatic Writing” and “The Art of Creative Writing” are wonderful resources re: character.

    I’m reading “Elements of Fiction Writing: Characters & Viewpoint: Proven Advice…” by Orson Scott Card, one of my favorite authors.

    I bought the two Egri books as used paperbacks. I’m borrowing Card’s book via Amazon Prime, my borrowed book for Feb.
    John McDevitt recently posted..Tyler, Brian & CathyMy Profile

    • Card is really good. Gobs of great things about him. The big question is did you use those tenets for your NaNo?

      • Nope. Didn’t get the books until after NaNo when I realized I needed the help. NaNo was a who knows what’s going to come out pantser first draft. Gave me some ideas, etc. Not ready for prime time for sure but a fun experience.
        John McDevitt recently posted..Tyler, Brian & CathyMy Profile

  6. The details are also useful for exposition without having to explain everything through dialogue.
    It can be wretched when it’s overdone though…
    El Guapo recently posted..Friday Foolishness – Statuary EditionMy Profile

  7. Very interesting Red! 🙂

    Things worth remembering I think! 🙂

    God Bless!

    prenin recently posted..Friday – Doug gets read the riot act.My Profile

  8. Good stuff. I feel like this is “stuff” I learned in a creative writing class when I was like 12 and should have remembered. Hmm….

    Need to take some notes and bookmark. I have a LOT to learn (or re-learn, I guess) about writing.

    • This is just a branch of writing you have been away from for a while. You will fall right back in I am certain. xxx

  9. I would love to get inside that intelligent mind of yours Red and absorb some of your wonderful knowhow of writing…
    You can verbalise things so well…. I must give a short story another try… using some of your tips..

    Wishing you a Wonderful Weekend
    Sue Dreamwalker recently posted..Feeling Excited and ReadyMy Profile

    • Oh, I would love to read a story of yours. You have a terrific creativity and think you would excel at it as you do so many other things. I hope you are staying warm this weekend. I hear the snow has come again to your corner of the world. Warm hugs and <3 xxx

  10. Yes its snowing as I type, and its coming down fast tonight.. typical as I need to drive to work tomorrow.. yes working Sunday .. I have wrote a few short stories maybe I should give you a link to one… Here is one ~ Escape!

    Warm hugs back
    Sue Dreamwalker recently posted..Feeling Excited and ReadyMy Profile


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