Monday Question: WTF WIP?

Last week I was editing The Blue Blazes, back from the Metal Men of the Cranky Cyborg, and in this WIP (work-in-progress) I found the following, erm, puzzling sentence:

“He sat on the toilet, dwarfing.”

The scene takes place in a bathroom, yes.

Nothing scatological.

But I have no idea what this sentence means.

It certainly… conjures some fascinating images. (And leads to the new Tolkien-esque euphemism for pooping: “BRB, I’m going to go throw some dwarves into Moria.”)

The editor was wise enough to place a very lengthy note next to this sentence, which if I recall correctly went on and on and looked something like this:

“???”

Seems to sum it up.

Every once in a while we find a sentence in our WIPs that make no goddamn sense at all.

So, that’s the question.

What curiously broken sentences have you found inside your work?

41 comments

  • Certainly,I have had many such phrases, but the latest one that weirded me out was “lollipop skin.” It could mean skin that was lickable and sticky sweet, but it could also be the skin on a lollipop, like a candy foreskin. I’m still not over that image.

  • This was found yesterday, while I was working on my YA novella. I wrote the specific page about a month or two ago, and have just come back to it yesterday to start my first editing of it.

    “Two long flaccid arms, like two long black and orange dongs with tips that were deformed to make the ten digits.” I was describing the main character, and I still have no idea how or /why/ I even put that there. It’s a cyberpunk world, he has robo-arms, and… I describe them as long flaccid deformed dongs.

    It made me stop for a moment, and just… just think about the audience that I was writing this for. A YA Cyberpunk/Fantasy/Conspiracy novella. And I write about penis arms.

    Suffice to say, I’m paying a lot better attention while I go through my first draft now.

  • I don’t remember specifics, but there were a couple of times back in high school where my workflow yielded some incomprehensible stuff. Either it was because I was writing longhand while at school and then coming home and transcribing it and couldn’t read my own handwriting, or because I’d stayed up writing into the wee hours of the morning and had apparently gone delirious, because the next day I couldn’t figure out where on earth I was taking it.

  • It’s not the accidents or mistakes that bug me so much as the sections where it’s obvious I’ve left myself “clues” to remind myself of something that needs to be altered or inserted, but by the time I get around to actually trying to do it, the train o’thought has departed Cleveland going 60mph and is already colliding with the one from Akron going 70 mph, leaving nothing but cryptic reminders in the rubble.

    Though I will admit to a certain proclivity for misspelling the word “window” of all things. In my books, people are always gazing out widows and slamming widows and getting thrown through widows. You’d think losing a husband would be bad enough, but apparently in my world, it’s only the beginning of a long list of tragic “n” omission.

  • I can sympathise with the ‘clues’ that makes no sense when you go back to them! I have a tendency to scribble down a quick sentence or three in my notebook when I get an idea I want to use for later, and more often than not I have no clue where I was going with the idea when I get back to it days or weeks later.

  • It is a good thing I wasn’t drinking anything when I read this post – I would have sprayed the screen with water otherwise! No I have absolutely no idea what that sentence means either.

    I find that once I get in to the rhythm of writing I seem to lose the ability to type… so then I have to try and translate everything later on… when what I actually meant to type has long since flown the nest that is my mind.

  • Somewhere, I have a notebook that has the words “inverse cataclysm” written at the top of the page, then a few pages later, “Marge,” and a few pages after that, “We will come.” I was writing in colored gel pens at the time, a color a day, and they’re all in the same color, but… I definitely don’t remember writing any of that. And I have not the first clue what I was on about when I did.

  • If the character was large, then adding the word ‘it’ to the end of that sentence makes perfect, if inelegant, sense. My own WTF, when describing a character moving at speed with a fiery sword in his hand was ‘flame guttering in the wind of his passage.’ I still chuckle every time I think of it.

  • Not exactly the same thing, but it is related to the plotting/writing/weirdness theme. I had this conversation on a train with my best friend once. She is also a writer.
    Me: “Aha!”
    Writer friend: “What’s up?”
    Me: “One of my space goats is gay.”
    Writer friend: “What?”
    Me: “Plotting.”
    Writer friend: “Oh”. And it was an “oh” of perfect understanding.

  • “Come on, you bag of Japanese dicks!”

    Intended as an insult to a Toyota that won’t start, but once I stripped the branding out of the story, this line was like WTF YOU RACIST ASSHOLE.

  • I have this in my WIP:

    “Just someone, to get it out of his head and get the circles unclosed. That day was not today.”

    That day will probably never come, as I have no clue what I wanted to say with it. The story does not even have circles *blink*

  • I found “Something hinky was going on” in my draft, and wondered when my short story had turned into an episode of Scooby Doo.

  • January 21, 2013 at 12:15 PM // Reply

    I have found quite a few broken sentences and split infinitives in my works in progress. I have comme to the conclusion I am a poet.

  • January 21, 2013 at 12:27 PM // Reply

    I know I have had some, but can’t remember them. I make them go away in a hurry. It doesn’t matter. None could begin to be as good as yours, Chuck! Made me laugh out loud, then go hunt up the spouse and read it to him, to the same reaction.

  • Co-author and I had a “devastating” man in our novel. So devastating, in fact, that other adjectives couldn’t stick to him. Wherever he went, devastation preceded him. Perhaps he had uncontrollable laser eyes.

  • I have to say my best (or worst, depending on how you look at it) was when I was doing an essay for school. To make it even better, my computer broke so I had to write it by hand in black pen, The sentence was supposed to be

    “Michael Crawford was an exceptional singer.” Instead, I was very hunger and thinking about food. So, I wrote

    “Michael Crawford was an exceptional dinner.” The sad thing was I didn’t even see it until I reread the entire essay! Thank god for white out!

  • It’s not *exactly* a wonky sentence, but I found an astonishing continuity error in the second Shinobi mystery manuscript (just in time, since it’s heading to the publisher next week). My ninja detective entered a building through one door, leaving his shoes outside (in accordance with Japanese tradition) … then exited through another door and went home, with no mention of the aforementioned shoes. Just left ‘em sitting there, I guess…

    And yes, I fixed it.

    The best part is that two alpha readers, four beta readers, three critique partners AND my son all read the manuscript – and not one of them picked up on this mistake.

    Apparently, a ninja’s shoes are ninjas in their own right.

  • I can’t give you a good example from my work, but maybe I can shed some light on the “toilet dwarfing.” A former brother-in-law was a dwarf, and had lots of problems wiping because of his short arms.

    Too much sharing? Sorry, but it’s the truth, or it might mean something else entirely.

    aka Darlene Underdahl
    www. VermillionRoadPress.com

  • My ‘wtf wip moments’ are not so much mistakes but more along the lines of notes I left to myself during the first draft and then forget about.
    For example, reading back over a paragraph from my first chapter weeks after I wrote it and suddenly having the text scream at me in the middle of a sentence ‘RESEARCH THIS, YOU LAZY SWINE’.

    It’s really jarring and a little terrifying. (Totally works though.)

    • I had a similar thing in my current WIP.
      A scene starts with one character teleporting our protag (who is sparko) to the front door of a medical facility…
      A medical person comes out and questions the conscious character about what happened.
      Just after I’ve written a note, referring to the protag: “he’s on the floor”.
      Another character joins them and a fairly long-winded discussion happens; throughout this there are dotted the notes: “he’s on the floor”.
      It gets to the end of the scene and everyone leaves, so I’ve written one final note to myself: “HE’S STILL ON THE F***ING FLOOR!”

      It’s getting fixed in this draft… :)

  • I was recently had reason to read over all my old story ideas (creating a wiki to keep track).
    I looked at one title and thought: “I don’t remember what that’s about, looks interesting”.
    The file contained one line of text: “I have no idea what to do with this title, it just sounded interesting.”
    *facepalm*

  • I don’t think I have ever said anything so strange as “toilet-dwarfing,” but I am just getting started in my writing career; I am sure those ghastly sentences will come. Perhaps one dwarfs I toilet by being too big for it…maybe? I have a bad habit of describing smiles as “smirks,” even when they aren’t meant to be cynical or mischievous. asateenwriter.blogspot.com

    • ditto! I am so hung up on some of these images. Now I’m supposed to sleep?
      I can’t help but think in “dwarfing” he meant “barfing,” which sounds sort of the same if you’re missing a synapse. But then you’d wonder what he was barfing into. Or on. Or between his legs?

  • ‘Invasion or simple incubators?’ was a recent note on a wip. I did *eventually* remember what the hell it meant, but only after an extended ‘huaagh?’ (This is what happens when you leave a short story too long between starting it and getting back to it…)

  • Nothing nearly so insanely impressive, but my most recent “Huh?” just this morning was:

    The stablemaster ignored him, pulling him towards a bale of hair in a corner.

    Okay, so the bale of HAIR jumps out at me first but fairly obvious (if ridiculous) typo, then I do a double take and realize “How the F*** is the stablemaster ignoring the guys AND pulling him along at the SAME FREAKING TIME!”

  • Haha, yesterday was a bad day for me. Rereading, I just found two more.

    #1: I had just taken about three sentences to describe setting and saying not a speck of the night sky wasn’t covered by clouds. Then I go on to say how the moonlight is shining on my character’s face. Well, it appears that the moon is no longer in the sky.

    #2: My one character is on a short journey, so she has a map. She puts the map in her backpack, does the entire journey without getting the map out, and then says how helpful the map was.

  • I was typing up one of my current WIPs (a story inspired by Michael A. Arnzen’s “The Curse of Fat Face,”) when I stumbled upon this gem:

    “Tits talk loudest when they’re being exaggerated, but, for once, she ignored them.”

    Ooookay, Jess…

  • One day I decided I was over typing and decided to dictate some notes into the Dragon app on the iPad. The next day I read over the notes. It was all fun and games until I came to this sentence: ‘She has measured the distance to the skirt-house in Australia’. Because we don’t have no truck with those trouser-houses down here in the wide brown land apparently! And no, I have no idea. Also not quite sure what came out as ‘I has a wonderful!’ but it’s my new favourite expression of pleasure.

    • I don’t know what a skirt-house is either, but I love those sort of typos… I usually let them lead me to all sorts of interesting and useful tangents.

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