Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Too Lee Do—How This Strange Term Perked Up My Descriptions

I’ve been writing for over a decade now (definitely put in my 10,000 hours!). And I’ve picked up a few tricks along the way. Have you heard of “too lee do”? It’s one of my favorites, and I found it in the first writing book I ever read, Fiction is Folks by Robert Newton Peck. Such a great book!

One of Peck’s greatest gifts to me as a newbie was his chapter on description. When describing a scene, he says, write only what you can see through a toilet paper role. (So, what’s too lee do? Remember when you were a kid and you’d stick those cardboard tubes to your mouth and trumpet “Too lee do!”)

How It Plays Out
Imagine reading this in a 1940s novel: “A woman walks into a living room and sits on the yellow sofa.”

It’s completely boring, isn’t it? Blah!

A too lee do description would look more like this. “The woman’s tightly wound victory rolls bobbed as she tripped over her business-black high heel and flopped onto the old davenport. Her bright red fingernails gripped the yellow checkerboard armrest to keep from tumbling immodestly backward.”

Do you see?

v     Victory roll—reminds us we’re in the World War II era
v     Bobbed—shows the action
v     Business-black high heel—she’s a career woman
v     Bright red fingernails—she cares about her grooming
v     Yellow checkerboard armrest—we can clearly visualize the red fingernails against the armrest

Not only does too lee do accomplish these nifty helps, using tight descriptions thrusts readers into the story. It gives them concrete images to identify with.

Sometimes the little tips add the most polish to our writing. Enjoy too lee do! I know I do. And next week, tune in for another trick I’ve learned.

How do you make your descriptions pop? I’d love to hear.

Happy writing and God bless,


photo credit: <a href="">glocalproject</a> via <a href="">photo pin</a> <a href="">cc</a>