Several years ago, when Rob and I were just a couple of college kids, we decided to go see a movie. As we stood in the ticket line, I noticed there was a grasshopper in the girl’s hair in front of us. She had that crazy curly kind of hair that can only be tamed with a huge amount of gel, so I guess maybe the grasshopper was attracted to the smell of her hair product or something. Regardless of the grasshopper’s motivation, he was really enjoying his new perch, and I could tell he wasn’t going anywhere without a fight. Not wanting this poor girl to walk into the theater with a bug in her hair, I swatted it out with my hand.
The girl, having felt my swat, turned around and gave me a confused look.
“There was a grasshopper in your hair,” I explained, pointing at the offending insect as it bounded through the crowd of moviegoers.
The girl eyed the grasshopper, then turned an icy stare back to me. “You know,” she said with a condescending air, “you should probably have just told me.”
“Huh?” I said.
“Next time, just tell me there’s a grasshopper in my hair. Or ask me if you can get it out.”
I balked at her. Seriously? She preferred that I just tell her there was a bug in her hair instead of getting it out? Or ask her permission to get it out? Was there a chance she wanted this thing in her corkscrew locks? Would it have been less offensive to her to have an insect remain in her gelled curls as opposed to my fingers grazing approximately six strands of hair in a successful attempt at removing it?
I could not understand her reasoning. And ever since then – well, okay, for at least ten minutes afterwards – I remained baffled as to why my good intentions went so awry. If there had been a grasshopper in my hair, I thought to myself, I would certainly have wanted her to get it out. Nobody wants a bug in their hair.
Years later, after marrying Rob and (until today) forgetting all about Grasshopper Girl, I find myself diving into the world of writing. And, as we all know, this comes with a hefty amount of criticism. Sometimes there are grasshoppers – metaphorically speaking – in my writing, and I can’t see them. I have to rely on a good Samaritan to swat them away for me. Otherwise, I’ll walk around with them all day, oblivious to the fact that they’ve got their little grasshopper feet stuck into the meat of my manuscript.
What are these so-called grasshoppers? They can be anything from a major plot hole, to a character that doesn’t serve a purpose, to an ending that doesn’t satisfy. They can be too much background information or too little. And once they get their legs tangled up in your manuscript gel, it’s game over until somebody smacks them out of the way.
And that’s what it takes, isn’t it? Somebody to say, “Hey, this is really terrible. You need to cut this right now. In fact, let me just go ahead and delete it for you.” And before you can protest, it’s done. The grasshopper is gone, bounding away into the crowd.
What do you think? Are you good at spotting the proverbial grasshoppers in your writing? Weird metaphors aside, what are some of the biggest problems you’ve totally missed, only to have someone else be like, “Seriously? You never noticed that?” And how do you react when someone points out problems with your manuscript? Are you grateful that the problem was addressed, or do you get defensive and a little mad like the girl with the curly hair?