Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Never Drink Tea

Tea drinking should be banned from all novels, in my opinion, along with flashback. Flashback puts the action into reverse, but tea drinking - oh, tea drinking - seduces us into thinking something is going on when really it isn't. Avoid tea drinking at all costs.

Okay, so that's a bit extreme, and I must confess to having allowed a cup or two to pass my characters' lips. But it's a nasty habit that is best avoided. Think about it. Two characters sit down with a nice cup of tea (or coffee) and talk about their problems/what's on their minds. By definition, the scene is static. You're going to have to work very hard to get much action going on - fondling the sugar tongs, perhaps? A bit of kitchen table stroking? Consider what you could add to the flavour of your novel by setting the scene elsewhere.

For my most recently written novel, Kissing Mr Wrong, in the second draft I took some tea drinking scenes, whisked them away from their domestic location and set them: window shopping down Milsom Street in Bath; standing in the queue for the Banksy exhibition at Bristol City Art Gallery; buying samosas from the Guildhall deli; folding leaflets and stuffing envelopes for a mailshot. Same conversations, same scene intentions, but now lots of fun details to play with and for the characters to comment on.

Take your characters away from the tea cups and give them something fun to do. Giving up tea and coffee is good for your novel's health.


liz fenwick said...

Having just written a tea scene - I think I may hate you!!! Only kidding but now I have to think of where the hell else it could be?

Blossom said...

I have written a tea scene – well, it is set in the middle of the night and injuries are being attended to at the same time. But at least the heroine doesn't drink tea during the flashback!

Sarah Duncan said...

(Gives fiendish chuckle) Give up the tea, ladies, give up the tea.

Actually, think tea plus injuries is OK, it's making tea drinking the sole activity that's the problem.