# of pages written: 4
# of days left to write 1st draft: 115
Today I went to Nauset Beach wearing a blue t-shirt that says “Redondo Beach” across the front in splashy red letters. I was sitting on a towel, reading The Secret History on my Kindle, when an older man with a disturbingly tan chest and floral swim trunks walked up to me.
“I saw your shirt,” he said. “Are you from Redondo Beach?”
“I used to live in Long Beach,” I told him. “I went to Redondo pretty often.”
He smiled and nodded. “Ahh. I lived for twenty years on Manhattan Beach.”
“I used to go there, too,” I told him. “My boyfriend and I used to roller-blade on the boardwalk.”
“Did you?” He seemed pleased. I suppose in Cape Cod there aren’t too many people who are able to chat about all the L.A. Beaches. “Well, how neat. I just thought I’d come say hi because of the shirt and all.”
“Yeah,” I said. “I actually I got this shirt at a Wal-Mart in Virginia, but…”
“Oh.” The man’s smile fell. I had ruined the magic. Why did I have to give him that piece of information?
“This may be TMI, but…” I’ve said this at least three times to people in the past two days. Giving too much information is sort of a problem I have. I even know at the very moment I’m saying it that it is probably information that need not be shared.
In fact, this entire blog might be categorized as TMI.
But, I think giving all the details – the intimate, embarrassing details – can sometimes make things better in the long run. It helps people really understand the full story.
On Tuesday I went to my writers group. Have I mentioned my writers group? I am in the youngest person in it by at least thirty-five years. One man is eighty-eight, no lie.
I have a short story I’d like to workshop about some kids in LA who smoke weed and go to the Warped Tour, but I’m a bit worried that my writers group is not the right audience for that sort of story. So on Tuesday I shared a short story I wrote that is set in the middle ages. I’m not insinuating that anyone in my writers group was born in the middle ages, but I did think they’d be more familiar with it than the Warped Tour.
I’ve never written anything set in other time periods before, and everything I know about the middle ages comes from Renaissance Fairs, sixth grade history class, and fairy tales. So I was looking forward to getting some feedback on whether or not my details seemed plausible.
“OK, Eva, let’s hear your story,” Jack said. He’s the leader of the group – a smallish man in his seventies with squinting eyes and tough, tanned skin.
I read the story out loud while everyone flipped through the pages. Afterward, several people had comments about the horseback-riding that goes on in the story.
“You don’t ride horses, do you?” they asked.
I don’t. I guess it was apparent.
The eighty-eight-year-old then said, “what is she carrying her food in? Does she have some sort of pack? Maybe you can describe her loading up the bag before she leaves on her journey.”
“Who cares?” Jack said suddenly.
“What?” The eighty-eight-year-old reeled back in his arm chair.
“Who cares?” Jack said again, loudly. “It’s a story. We’ll just assume she put the food in a bag. We don’t need to know all that. Move along with the story.”
“Well,” the eighty-eight-year-old said, “it’s just a little detail she could put in somewhere.”
“I thought it had too many details already,” one of the women said. She was wearing red lipstick and a bright red shawl. She’s writing a memoir based on her experience as a divorcee.
“OK,” I said. “Thank you guys.”
Sometimes it’s hard to tell what details to include in a story or a conversation and what is just TMI. Rollerblading on the boardwalk versus the t-shirt bought at Wal-Mart. TMI in fiction is what takes away from the magic or the flow or the cohesion of the story.
I was talking to Stefan today about my middle ages story and how I don’t really know much about life in the middle ages. “I was googling ‘middle ages blacksmith shop,’” I told him, “just to see what one looked like so I could describe it.”
“You can talk to my aunt if you want,” he said. “She’s really into the middle ages. She does reenactments at those fairs.”
“Thanks,” I said, “maybe I can show her a draft.” I was silent for a moment. (Only a moment – I’m never silent for very long.) “You know,” I said, “I think I just need to write the story and not worry about the details at first. Just move along with the story. I can add in and change the details later.”
I waste a lot of time googling things. Time that could be spent writing.
The important thing is the story. The rest is just details.