Example (excerpt from a story I'm writing):

To make things worse, my schoolmates started calling me “Hanging Pup” from then on (yes, news spread like a diseases at my university. The dumber they were, the faster they propagated). At least they could have chosen a more feminine one. Like “Hara-kitty” or “Floor-jumping Bunny.” Anyway, I didn’t care. I’d never cared much about how people call me or what they think about me. I was usually too busy with my own thoughts to care about other’s.

The problem arose when the story reached my mother. She went to one of these aerobic dancing classes housewives organize in parks. (Not that she was out of shape. On the contrary, she had an dazzling figure: firm breasts, a diminute waist, and hips that, though wide, had no traces of ever having carried a child. She just did it for fun.) The group was mainly composed by my schoolmate’s mothers, so Mom probably heard it from there. She called me that same night.

“This suicide thing again?”

“Not suicide, Mom. Animal suicide.”

What I tried to do (bolded part) was to take advantage of the exercise part to describe the mother's physical appearance. I wonder, though, if that chunk will pull the reader out of the narrative, or make the piece harder to read? (I'm worried of this because it's relatively long).

  • 2
    Why are you describing the mother? It seems superfluous to the section.
    – Matt Ellen
    Commented Aug 26, 2014 at 14:28
  • @Matt Ellen Well, that's the only place I describe the mother in the whole story. So that the reader can have some idea how she looks like.
    – wyc
    Commented Aug 26, 2014 at 14:29
  • 2
    Why there? What does how she look add to the story? What are you trying to convey by adding the description there?
    – Matt Ellen
    Commented Aug 26, 2014 at 14:38
  • @Matt Ellen OK, I'll think about that.
    – wyc
    Commented Aug 26, 2014 at 14:39
  • 5
    Not to mention the description is kind of creepy. The narrator's own mother is being described in glowing sexual terms. Would you ever say your mom had firm breasts? Even if you could bounce a quarter off them? Commented Aug 26, 2014 at 15:22

1 Answer 1


The bits you put in parentheses don't (necessarily) take me out of the narrative. They are the character's opinions of people and events. That takes me deeper into the character, which is a big part of where the story is.

One test for such parentheticals is: Do these opinions characterize the character in a way that serves the story?

As Lauren points out, the bolded bit may be showing a side of the character that you did not intend. If it serves your story to show the character as having a creepy, sexualized view of his mother, leave that in. If not, change it. Or drop it.

In this passage, it seems to me that the parentheses themselves call attention to the parenthetical statements. The parentheses announce that the narrator thinks of the statements as side comments, and chooses to include them anyway. Again, this characterizes the narrator. So the question is: Does that characterization serve the story? If so, leave the parentheses in. If not, take them out, and just put the statements into the flow of the paragraph.

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