Make-up is to writing

My sister and me with make-up on

Me without make-up on

*For those who are boys and reading this post, don’t skip it. I’m sure there are boys out there who are into make-up, and even if you’re not one of them, just imagine this as advice you’d tell your girlfriends when they don’t understand your writing obsession.

So, this morning I woke up in a dream-like state. I kept thinking my sister was lying next to me, talking to me about how there was a smudge under my eyes. I nodded, thinking how understandable that was because I went to sleep with my make-up on (which is something you shouldn’t do, but because I rarely wear make-up, I totally forgot I was wearing it and didn’t take it off). But whatever. I only wore a little bit of make up. Easily fixable.

And that was where my writing brain thinking-ness started.

Make-up is like writing. (You’re liking these analogies aren’t you? I know I am.)


By the saying both make-up users and writers know: less is more.

Make up is only supposed to highlight what’s already there. To make a clear face that’s already pretty, even more beautiful. Use too much, and well, it’s not so pretty. It’s fake looking. And sometimes, if you don’t know your face well enough, you might end up higlighting the wrong features.

In the same way, that’s what people do when writing. Showing vs Telling. Not “showing” enough makes the story dull and plain (like a face with too light of a make-up). “Showing” too much and it’s like an overload and the readers wouldn’t know what to focus on (like someone wearing too many color eyeshadows and bright red lipstick with pink blush caked on someone’s cheeks). What you’d need to do is know when to balance the act of “showing” AND “telling.”

To do this, you’d need to know your story well enough. What do you need to stress? That the man is nervous because he’s being narrowed down as a suspected murderer? Or the cate in the corner of the room licking himself? I’m sure the man being nervous is more important in the scene so that’s something you’d want to “show.” As for the cat? If you really need the cat in that scene, just telling the readers he’s there would be enough. Don’t color him in or else you’ll leave the readers wondering if there’s some sort of connection/importance between the man and the cat.

If you’re able to do this, you’ll have a prettier and cleaner manuscript, with a good balance between showing and telling.

3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Asia Morela
    Jul 20, 2011 @ 06:50:05

    Ah, well. 🙂 I always go to bed with makeup on when I’m at my boyfriend’s (like now. I’m sure I currently have smudges under my eyes).

    Makeup confuses me. There was a time when I always wore makeup, and personally found that I used quite a lot of it, but my friends were always persuaded I looked “natural”, and I was asked to put on more when I started working as a hostess (not sure what you guys call that job in English). I’ve also noticed that my makeup doesn’t show on the pictures I take for my blog… 😐

    Anyway. I guess “don’t overdo it” is an advice that works in most any situation…


  2. dustin
    Jul 21, 2011 @ 17:17:43

    But, I like it more when girls don’t have any make up on…


  3. Monica "Choppy" Nguyen
    Jul 23, 2011 @ 10:04:15

    @Asia Morela I totally get it. There was a girl in my class who put on a lot of make up. Even though i thought she was really pretty like that, i knew if she took it off, it would look so weird. So the whole “don’t overdo it” is a great advice for pretty much anything, like you said. Plus, if you “overdo” the “make up” of the novel you’re trying to write, it’ll just confuse the readers when they try to tear it apart.

    @dustin Trust me. at one point in a girl’s life, they wear make up. Even if it’s just to test it out. Even if it’s not a lot and barely visible. But even then, that’s fine. What you just said could work for novels too. You don’t like girls who has make up one = you like books that dont have purple prose galore, but simple writing styles.

    or not. LOL. Just trying to get it to work. 🙂


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