Saturday, 21 May 2011

Saturday Matterday #2

Hellur my superduper Alterheroes!

I am so sorry I have not been able to blog as often as I used to; things have become quite busy in this little bubble called "life" and my posts have become a tad sporadic.

Today I would like to address an issue all writers face. So dreaded is this problem that many manuscripts have died a horrible death in a dark and damp drawer. Yes, people, I am referring to the one and only Show don't Tell.

It is one of the first writing rules you'll ever learn, yet so many still struggle with it--including yours truly. So, with the help of Sandy Tritt and her wonderful site, Inspiration for Writers, I am going to cover the basics of Show don't Tell.

Without further ado, let the lesson begin.

Show, Don't Tell. Yeah, that sounds easy, but what, exactly, does show mean?

Let's look at an example: Carey ate breakfast, then he took a shower and went to the store. At the store he met a girl and they talked for a long time. Carey liked her but she blew him off. Then he went home.

Tells you a lot about Carey, huh? Okay -- so this example is really exaggerated, but it hits home the necessity of showing and not telling. What can we do to fix it? We need more detail, especially dialogue and action. Consider:

Carey studied the frozen dinners. He'd had turkey and dressing for the last four days, so salisbury steak would be good for a change. But did he want the Big Man's or the regular?

A scent teased his nose. Not the overwhelming smell of fish and frostbite, but a fresh smell, like the smell of skin just out of the shower. He glanced sideways and saw the most perfect arm he'd ever seen in his life. Long, slender, graceful, full of sinewy muscle and smooth skin. His eyes followed the arm to the shoulder and then the head. Her head. A head covered with long blond hair and containing a face that made his heart stop.

"Hi," she said, her voice rich and melodious.

Carey's mouth didn't work. He tried to return her greeting, but only a grunt came out. He tried to smile politely, but his face erupted with a grin as large and toothy and goofy as a cartoon character's . . .

So now you have the idea. We need details. We need to know thoughts, feelings; we need to smell the perfume, taste the wine, feel the cashmere. Anything less cheats the reader from experiencing our imaginary world.

We also get into the "show, don't tell" problem in less apparent ways. For example, in description. Mary was a pretty girl, with blue eyes and blond hair. That is telling. Consider: Mary's blue eyes glistened with joy, her blond hair bouncing with each step. That is showing.

Instead of saying Molly is a wonderful person, say Molly is always there when anyone needs her. She's the first to arrive with a casserole when someone is sick, the first to send a note of encouragement to those who are troubled, the first to offer a hug to anyone -- man, woman or child -- at anytime.

Dialogue is another area where we have the opportunity to show or to tell. "I love you," she crooned. "I love you, too," he sputtered. And I cringe. First, using creative dialogue tags (crooned, sputtered) is one of my pet peeves and the topic of a tips page. Second, it is cheap. It is telling, not showing. Let the power of your dialogue and the accompanying action show your reader the tone of voice and the emotion, don't tell them. Consider: "I love you," she said, her voice smooth as her fingers massaged his Rolex. "Love you, too," he said. His glassy eyes roved over her naked body, his mouth too wet and limp to form words properly.

You can't tell us someone is a wonderful person, a talented musician or a spoiled child. We won't believe you. You must show us. Throughout your manuscript, look for any opportunity to show us in real time, to act out, to let us feel. The difference will amaze you.

 c) copyright 2001 by Sandy Tritt.

To be frank, Sandy really shows you how to Show vs Tell, and she is one of the best teachers I have never met. (LOL) However, showing takes a lot more words to convey and the thing that really sets a great writer apart from a novice is knowing WHEN to Show and WHEN to Tell.

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Saturday Matterday

Yesterday Blogger shut down so I wasn't able to post Friday's Wonder Ponder on time, so today I'm using the one and only Sora as the mascot for this 'supposed to be Friday' post. Have no fear, Calvin & Hobbes will be back next week.

The stupendous, fantastic, brilliant blogger Barbara Kloss awarded me with the Blogger on Fire award. This marks another accolade in my very short blogging career and I, for one, couldn't be happier.

The best part about receiving this award, is that I get to nominate others for it as well.

And the Academy Award for Blog on Fire goes to...

Jo Schaffer


S.B. Niccum

Lisa Potts

Roland Yeomans

Michael Di Gesu

Kelly Hashway

Now off to the Vanity Fair after party with the lot of ya! Go on, SHOO!

On to the matter at hand...

There was an article in the UK's Guardian about the gender imbalance in children's literature. In it, they stated that male characters far outnumber females.

"From The Very Hungry Caterpillar to the Cat in the Hat, Peter Rabbit to Babar, children's books are dominated by male central characters, new research has found, with the gender disparity sending children a message that 'women and girls occupy a less important role in society than men or boys.'"

Um...Okay. I don't think any author writes simply to deplore women, or subliminally hint they're worthless, but okay. First of all, they are missing the point. In writing, and almost all things where you have to sell a product, there IS such a thing called a target market. Concurrently, this demographic also has what is called, what was it again?...Oh yes, likes and dislikes. It is a well known fact that boys are picky readers -- it takes a lot to hook them --, and it is also noted that they don't fancy books with girl MCs, where as females really don't care. Why would you sell (and this is just a roundabout example) lipstick to a demographic that has shown no interest in the product at all? It's a complete waste of money, and I'm sorry if this eludes them, but publishing is, after all, a business.

"Looking at almost 6,000 children's books published between 1900 and 2000, the study, led by Janice McCabe, a professor of sociology at Florida State University, found that males are central characters in 57% of children's books published each year, with just 31% having female central characters. Male animals are central characters in 23% of books per year, the study found, while female animals star in only 7.5%."

I admit, there are a lot more male characters in novels than there are females. I have no solid reason for this, especially since most guys hate reading. However, the YA (not MG) market is practically brimming with female leads, more so than males. You can't walk into the YA section of Barnes & Noble and find 1) a decent YA book for dudes 2) the absence of women perusing the shelves.

I think I can say, without restraint, that women are in no way, shape or form, considered less than awesome by society; nor will the absence of a female lead in a book attribute to a detriment.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Narrative Vis-a-Vis

I am so glad to be back!

I am a bit ashamed to tell you why I have been away, because it happened not too long ago (and I blogged a bout it), but it will be silly not to. Well, I got in ANOTHER ATV accident and broke ANOTHER part of my body. Last time I broke my right wrist; this time I broke my left hand. Somewhere in there is a virtuous tale about the dude who never learns. I fear if I continue this sport I'll end up in the hospital wing in a coffin. So, at the behest of my mother, who not only scolded me with a pot spoon, but shed a tear on my regard, I am giving up the sport for a while; at least until my body has healed fully from all the injury I've sustained trying to pull off CRAZY stunts.

While I was at the hospital, which I've now come to revere as my "second apartment" - if not for the free bed and cable, but breakfast too -- a very wise friend of mine came to visit. He is a rather dignified old chap who wears bowler hats and is always in a tuxedo. I met him while in college, when I helped him solve a rather complex theorem, and since then he has taken a fancy to my endeavors - more recently to my writing. Anywho, he inquired about my novel and I told him all was well - I'll be done with revisions and then it will be time to find an agent.

"Simply marvelous!" he had said. "And do you have a snippet for me to partake?"

Sir, I thought you'd never ask.

So I gave him my flash drive, which I always carry, and he stuck it into his laptop. He began to read and at once his bushy gray eyebrows jumped. Then he turned to me and said what might have been gibberish had I not remembered it only a second later.

"Your narrative is quite extraordinary, and I love the use of the Scenic Technique."


Yes. How could I forget.

Narrative Technique is the style of telling the story and concentrates on the order of events and their detail.

I learned this a long time ago and forgot. What's more, I wrote my novel without knowing which technique I used.

To be frank, it doesn't make or break a story. It's invisible like Theme, unless you're specifically looking to determine what technique is used.

Today I would like to share two prominent Narrative Techniques in Literature.


Scenic Technique

Resembles a movie or play in its manner of presentation.

We are close to the actions in both a spatial and temporal sense.

The author presents actions that take a few seconds to perform in a passage that takes a few seconds to read.

Scenic techniques used at the beginning of a novel are more likely to capture a reader's attention at once because they are concrete and vivid.

Panoramic technique

Physical setting is highly generalized; narrative summary of events of a long period of time compressed into a single paragraph

Panoramic technique at the beginning of a novel often has the advantage of clarity; the reader knows where he/she is in time and space and has a definite point of departure for action that will follow.

Panoramic technique is economical; the author can get necessary exposition out of the way and concentrate on the story's dramatic events.

Both scenic and panoramic techniques are combined in most novels.

Shifting techniques can prevent monotony in the structure of the story.

Author must emphasize certain things (scenic technique) and de-emphasize other things (panoramic technique).

Panorama can serve a transitional function between more important scenes.


It's nice to reflect on the stuff we already know, and if you didn't, you're very welcome!

I am nearing the finish line on my revisions and I can't wait to get started with querying. Others find it nerve wracking, but I've done it before and it's rather thrilling. Yes, you read that right, THRILLING, with a capital 'T.' This coming from the guy who breaks his ass every other week!
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...