Nov 11, 2009

Overwhelming numbers of thoughts

Something I really get pleasure out of weeding out of manuscripts are these expressions like "thoughts flooded/pounded/stampeded through my mind." There are times and places for these expressions, but on the whole I find they get used way more often in writing than they do in life. In a bad way.

And also in a different way - when a real person really says "my mind was flooded with thoughts," (if that ever actually happens) there's often an implication that this person is overwhelmed - there's so much going on that he can't think clearly. In writing, though, this implication usually isn't there - it's more just a literal "I was standing there having lots of thoughts" kind of situation.

Primarily, though, the expression seems like a lazy attempt to evoke an emotional response in the reader. Like describing heartbeats speeding up and hands shaking and whatnot. It usually doesn't add anything, and it sounds silly. So go ahead - find a better way to say it :)

1 comment:

Diotima said...

I'm trying to decide how I feel about this one. The expression is definitely a kind of short-hand, and therefore probably a lazy way out. But the phenomenon does happen in real life. I often experience a flood of thoughts, and need to wrestle them into something more orderly and manageable. It's part of the human condition.

It would be ever so satisfying to get at the experience in a way that doesn't cause the reader to glaze over because of overexposure to a phrase. In fact, more often than not, the writer probably achieves the opposite response than the one s/he wants.

Thought-provoking cliche' alert.