Tuesday, March 8, 2011


Do you shrug? If you don’t know how, instructions to the right: just lift your shoulders quickly then let them fall back into place. If you want to add emphasis, lift your hands or arms in an I-don’t-know-I’m just as baffled-as-you-are manner.

I remember shrugging a lot when I was a kid. My mother would chastise me for it because it was an evasion to the question she asked. I didn’t want to answer her so I shrugged, buying time, mentally searching for a plausible explanation—better known as fib.

I don’t see a lot of shrugs today—not even from kids. Shrugs seem useless to me—in real life and in fiction. What do they offer? They make a hero seem sort of juvenile. Heroines shouldn’t shrug at all. Shrugging looks dumb.

I’m reading a book by a bestselling author and everyone shrugs. I mean everyone! In fact, there are a couple of shrugs on almost every page. The protagonist shrugs, his latest love shrugs—all the cops shrug. Even a bad guy shrugged a few times before he disappeared. All these shrugs are driving me crazy. Aren’t there any editors out there?

Granted, this is the first book in a long series of best sellers, BUT, this book, published in 1993 was nominated for and won several awards. Why? The writing isn’t spectacular—lots of holes as far as I can see. The story itself doesn’t seem plausible; no way could it really happen. Action-reaction or cause and effect seem to me all askew. After reading the first 50 pages, I felt as though I knew this author’s protagonist better than the author did. Some of his responses seemed so off the wall and out of character, I was embarrassed for both of them—the author and the protagonist.

I’m almost finished with the first book and intend to move on to the second. I’ll count the shrugs but I do hope he and his editor have cleaned up and tightened the writing. If not, then I plan to skip on to his latest book to see if the author (and editor) learned anything writing and editing all those best sellers. Now, if I’d been critiquing or editing this book—I’d have said it has great potential but tighten it up, cut all the shrugs. I’d say, cars have to do something other than “nose” into the parking lot, nose down the highway and nose across speed bumps. No ‘nosing” allowed. And I’d say do away with all those grunts. A detective doesn’t need to grunt in response to every question—doesn’t he know any words?

But I’ve learned a lot reading this book. For example—if I’m carrying important papers that are in danger of getting stolen, I won’t put them in my brief case because that’s too obvious. I’ll put them inside my garment bag—after all, who the heck steals a garment bag? Also, I’ll never again stay in the same motel for more than one night—I’ll stay in a different motel each night and sometimes skip over the state line regardless of how far away the state line is—that’ll really throw them off my trail.

This book—anonymous for now—is an interesting read in spite of all the holes and clichés and repetition and—oh, there’s so much more. At this point, I can’t tell you why this author has become a house-hold name. The protagonist is definitely different and may speak to that born to be wild side of both men and women. The story—no matter what a stretch it is—is intense. Aside from that, I’m totally in the dark…and shrugging.


Charles Gramlich said...

Good question. I can't say I've thought about it. I 'think' I shrug on occassion but I don't really know. too much shrugging in a book would definitely call attention to itself though

Pat_Currie18 said...

I just tried shrugging. When I did it, I also lifted my eyebrows. Come to think of it, I just wrote someone, "Don't think you are going to cavalierly shrug me off." What did I mean by that. Well, I tried that, too. It was a shrug with kind of a smirk. So, I think they have there uses, even if we don't use them as much any more...certainly shrugs originated for a reason . . . probably, because we didn't want to verbalize what we really wanted to say, so, felt it safer to shrug. That's my two cents. Pat Currie

Jan Rider Newman said...

I just finished a book where the mother frowns on almost every page. It's the kind of irritating, sloppy writing you're supposed to look for an eliminate in one of your final drafts.


Do I shrug? Yes! I am a professional shruger. Just ask my wife :-)

Take care Jess and have a great weekend :-)


Carole said...

I read a bunch of books by a well known author. I loved the first two or three but by the 4th and 5th books, I knew what lines would be used and what the response would be.

He wrote several series with different charachters and every single one of them had the exact same personality, sense of humor, and lines. He is wealthy beyond belief.

Rats, why didn't I think of that.

Common Household Mom said...

Thanks for visiting my blog!

I love your visuals on shrugs in this post. In a novel too many shrugs would drive me nuts. (Maybe excessive shrugging is better than excessive gasping, though.) And "nosing" the car! That's just too much. Very few people drive by nosing.