Provocative Statements

Sometimes there are ways that things can be worded which create a very specific response in a reader.  For example, how would you respond to the following opening line?

The girl was clearly asking for it.

See what I mean?  While this doesn’t have to be a negative statement, it immediately puts certain images/connotations/responses in your mind!

As a writer, there are some reasons to use phrases like this, and some reasons to avoid them.  There may be times when you want to bring the “typical” response into a reader’s mind.  Putting someone in a specific emotional state, however minor, can be useful.  In the case of the sentence in question, it can generate suspicion of the narrator or character with point of view, or it can unsettle someone enough to keep reading.  It also creates innuendo, because the reader is now in a potentially icky place and may take innocent things that follow in the wrong way.

That’s both a potential reason to use and reason to avoid.  It can be tricky to write something innocuous when your readers’ minds are already on a certain path.  You also run the risk of offending a reader; sometimes a positive, but it is usually not a great idea if you want to keep your readers.

I happen to like the concept of using a phrase like this and then shaking the reader’s expectations by following it with something that clarifies and makes innocent the words that, on their own, have no weight of negative.

She couldn’t even talk, or at least hadn’t spoken to me, but her outstretched hand and giant, pleading eyes made the message plain.  When I handed her the bright pink carnation, the grin that crossed her face confirmed it; she’d wanted the flower all along.

Not what you were expecting, was it?

Can you think of any other phrases that might work like this one, creating an immediate gut reaction which may not be warranted or accurate?


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Akshita
    May 03, 2013 @ 06:11:16

    That was good. I love both reading and writing such phrases! Although I can’t particularly remember one now, it sort of raises my interest in the story.


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