Those moments, those self-indulgent moments, come most frequently I've noticed, in descriptive passages. Where the writer loses the plot, almost literally, and disappears up their own pen (!) in flights of fancy, almost listing the senses in an attempt to create something 'real'. And the effect is the opposite. To kill reality.
We are told on courses, 'Use the senses' - but that does not mean list them as if you are ticking them off on your fingers as you write!!
While I was away, there were two super stops on the Short Circuit tour - both of which I will flag later - but one, at Women Rule Writer, with the great Nuala ni Chonchuir, picked up on this - on using the senses. See here.
But this is great. Here is an article written by Bernadine Evaristo. Published in Mslexia, it is a marvellous look at using the senses in fiction. Complete with this great saying,
""Writing fiction is not an academic exercise but an imaginative one. Knowing all the literary terms and jargon is sometimes useful and might impress others, but it won’t make you a great writer. Understanding craft, however, whether it’s instinctive or learned, is another matter altogether."
And, from Nuala's blog, her question and my reply...
One of my favourite essays in the book is by Paul Magrs; I love the amount of solid advice he packs into his piece while maintaining a very down-to-earth approach. I think his advice might work best for experienced writers – novices may be scared by statements such as: ‘How come it’s only paragraph one and you are already up your own arse?’ (!)
A salient point he makes is, ‘Don’t forget to appeal to all our senses.’ (Using colour, food, sex etc. in stories.) What are your own feelings on the importance of including all things sensual in the short story?
Guardedly, V replies, it is important, obviously, to allow our reader to experience the world you create for them. But. How many pieces have I read where the senses have been a bit shoehorned in, almost as though the writer was ticking them off on their fingers as they wrote.
'The smell of the sea rose through the open window together with the raucous cries of seagulls tussling over some scraps on the pavement outside the café. The coffee this morning tasted so bitter. But it always smelled so good first – it was unfair. But then life was unfair. Hugo picked at a loose thread on his jacket sleeve – the rough tweed, browns and golds if you got close enough to it, felt rough under his fingers, like that old jacket of his father’s that used to small of tobacco and mint – his father always had Polos hidden in the pockets for the ponies…'
Blah blah blah…
blah blah blah...
see what I mean??!
Here's the link to the MSLEXIA article again - in case...
and HERE is Bernadine Evaristo's website.