One fell swoop: how to get stuck while writing (and how not to)

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How to get stuck

What I wanted to say is that the character drank her whiskey down in one gulp. But I don’t want to use gulp. I don’t want to say gulped. I want the phrase that will perfectly convey that feeling that life has become too much for you and whiskey is the only thing that will help. Like the moment in Raiders of the Lost Ark when Karen Allen listens to Harrison Ford, and then drinks her vodka. In one fell swoop.

But no one says that. No one says they drank their whiskey in one fell swoop. In fact, probably no one does drink whiskey like that. I’ve never seen anyone do it outside of a movie or a book. It’s a cliche, isn’t it? No matter how you say it, you’re writing a cliche. Really, your character would never do that to begin with.

whiskeyBut what should they do instead? What would my character do in this situation? Not drink whiskey. Pinch herself. Punch someone. Pick up the fork and carve little parallel lines across the surface of the table.

I don’t know this character well enough. That’s the problem. It’s the problem with the whole goddam book. The whole story. I have no idea who this person is and whether or not they would drink whiskey. I need to write a character sketch. I need to stop right now and find one of those little list of questions on the Internet. Questions about your character you should know. That is what I need to do. That is what real writers do.

She’s in a bar, though. There’s whiskey. Why not drink it? The whiskey is not the problem. The problem is how to describe her drinking the whiskey. Does she gulp? Swallow it down? Inhale it? Does she do it all in one fell swoop?

I wonder what’s happening on Twitter?

How not to

One fell swoop? That doesn’t sound right at all. I’ll fix it later.

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Comments

  1. Just finally took out the “one fell swoop” line. I was kind of tempted to leave it there just for sentimental reasons.

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