A “thing” called radar love

While listening to the radio the other day, “Radar Love” by Golden Earring came on. Now, this is admittedly a very fun driving song, but it’s not driving soundtracks I’m discussing in this post.

One of the oft-repeated lines in the song is “We’ve got a thing that’s called radar love.” What are the hidden messages in that lyric? It’s not important. What’s important is that Golden Earring has chosen to describe love as a “thing.”


The term “thing” is, by definition, an object unable to be described (at least with ease). In a fun driving song, the meaning probably doesn’t matter. But, in a story – short story, novel, poem – a writer should be able to avoid using the word “thing” as a description.

Admittedly, I can go overboard with my descriptions (succinctness is something I need to work on). But, if you can’t describe an object – if, say, it’s wholly foreign or unfamiliar to the narrator – then at least liken it to a similar object, to give the reader an idea of what they’re supposed to be seeing or experiencing. Saying “thing” doesn’t even give your poor reader a clue!

…Unless, of course, you’re talking about The Thing. Because that Thing…no words can describe.

So, what about you? What are your description pet peeves?


4 thoughts on “A “thing” called radar love

  1. Good pet peeve! You’re so right, and while I’m familiar with the song I never stopped to think about how lazy the songwriting is.

    I guess for me I can’t stand when I read a point-by-point description of characters so that they sound like wanted posters. I like 2-3 details, usually body build/height, hair color, eye color. Beyond that I like seeing description through action. I prefer knowing a character is athletic, not because that term is used, but because I watch him playing basketball or something.

    I guess this goes along with ‘show, don’t tell’ but I don’t like the show being shoved down my throat. I like the chance to come up with my own visual.


    • I prefer knowing a character is athletic, not because that term is used, but because I watch him playing basketball or something.
      I like that, Kate! I’m always concerned about the “show, not tell” rule, though I sometimes forget I can describe someone across example rather than description. I’m with you about the 2-3 details, too. My hero will notice many things about his lover because he moons over her…but he won’t notice much about himself, because he already knows what he looks like. I suppose I need to find a happy medium between the two. 🙂

      Thanks for stopping by; I always learn something from your comments.


  2. My family, for whatever reason, uses the word “thing” very often, and most of the time we understand what “thing” or “thingy” they are referring to. It’s really weird, but I don’t think it works outside this family.

    I think the “show not tell” tip traumatized me into not using thing, unless I’m about to describe the “thing” or using it in conversation. 😀


    • I know what you mean about that shared telepathy. My family can say, “You know that thingamajig on the whooziwhatsit?” And I’ll know exactly what they’re talking about! 😀

      4amWriter (Kate) has some good insight into the “show, not tell” rule, in her comment, here. I’ve been trying to relax the description details in this latest story, to what’s important, either to the moment or to my narrator’s eye.


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