Five Minute Writing Tip
Have you ever eaten a sugarplum? Do you know what's in a sugarplum? How about a fruitcake? My take on it is why eat sugarplums and fruitcake, when you can have pecan pie and divinity?
Did your mom ever wear a kerchief and your dad a stocking cap? Probably not unless they were into hip hop.
Was there ever a sash on your window and, if so, did you ever, in a moment of excitement, throw it out? What I had in my window when I was growing up was a water cooler, which took up the entire space, making throwing anything through the window impossible.
And I have to ask this one because I grew up in Texas. New fallen snow, miniature sleighs? Come on. We had graveled alleyways and a wagon, and if it snowed, it was usually gone before we could run outside and enjoy it.
I've heard the poem The Night Before Christmas a gazillion times and have seen it illustrated in books, on Christmas cards, T-shirts, coffee mugs, holiday plates, etc, so I had no trouble envisioning sugarplums, stocking cops, new fallen snow, and miniature sleighs. But when you're writing about a different time like the 1800's, or a setting unique setting like Broussard, Louisiana, should you explain the terms and colloquialisms so all readers understand, or do you trust that they'll figure it out themselves?
Here are four answers to consider:
1. Too much expository writing in fiction will bore your reader, and possibly insult them, but if a term does need a little explaining, consider doing it in dialogue and in as few words a possible.
2. Take note of how other authors handle this situation. Reading Mark Twain will give you a greater insight.
3. Consult your writer's critique.
4. Write it both ways: include lengthy explanations and read it aloud, then remove them and read it again.
Twas the Night before Christmas
Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St Nicholas soon would be there.
The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads.
And mamma in her 'kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter's nap.
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below.
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer.
With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name!
"Now Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! On, Cupid! on, Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!"
As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky.
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of Toys, and St Nicholas too.
And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St Nicholas came with a bound.
He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot.
A bundle of Toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler, just opening his pack.
His eyes-how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow.
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly!
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself!
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings, then turned with a jerk.
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose!
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, 'ere he drove out of sight,
"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!"