Wednesday, October 21, 2009


Continuing with the Author ABCs... whew, getting there!

So, S. We've all heard the golden rule of writing: Show, don't tell. But what does it really mean?

Well, I heard editor Cheryl Klein at MidSouth conference last month describe it this way: when you you show what's happening, or rather dramatize... you are allowing the reader to REACT to the scene rather than just taking the author's word for it.

Her explanation couldn't have come at a better time for me. Because in my revisions of ESCAPE FROM FIRE MOUNTAIN, according to Excellent Editor's notes, I was asking the reader to take my word for how they should feel instead of working to CREATE the feeling. (As my editor writes, "doesn't feel earned.")

Which means I can't tell the reader Cass and Havi are inexplicably drawn to each other. I have to show that happening, I have to create scenes in which that attraction is evident, I have to give the reader concrete evidence in dialogue or action that proves they are drawn to each other, making it not inexplicable at all, but there in black and white for the reader to see.

And it's hard. Showing is hard. Sometimes simply because it's hard to find innovative ways to express certain emotions, like a character's fear or nervousness. (Found in the margin of Excellent Editor's latest mark-ups: "stomach is doing lots of things." Which means I've got to break out the sweaty palms or somesuch. :)

But when showing works... oh man. Now THERE'S a good feeling. And yes, those are the books I am most attached to as a reader. So this week, I challenge you to show me. Not the money -- the story.

And stay tuned for next week's T post... all about why we must also TELL (drawn from my own hard-learned lesson in writing LEAVING GEE'S BEND).

1 comment:

  1. Irene,

    Wonderful explanation, as always. I guess when we write, we sometimes assume that the reader is feeling what we are saying, but it doesn't always work that way. There is definitely a trick to it. I am sure that you just know it when you have hit that mark, and when you haven't. It's another form of intuition.

    Hmmm, I'm not sure if I am up to showing you the story, right now, but if I come up with something, I will let you know!

    Thanks for sharing all that you learn.



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