by Dale E. Lehman
You’ve heard “show, don’t tell” so much you’re sick of it. But do you know what it means? Based on numerous discussions I’ve witnessed, many writers don’t. If you can stomach one more spoonful of the subject, I’ll demystify the adage. Plus, I’ll offer a simple writing exercise for honing your showing skills. Continue reading “Real Show and Tell for Authors”
When I first sat down and put fingers to keys, full of optimism about being a writer, I looked for suggestions about how to write my first book. Any guesses what I found? The two most overused pieces of advice in writing: “Show, don’t tell,” and “Write what you know.” If writers’ groups were classic rock radio stations, those two pieces of advice would be Stairway to Heaven and Hey Jude. All good enough, as far as it went, but I didn’t even understand what they meant.
It took me quite a while to get the hang of “showing,” not “telling.” Years, honestly. I never said I was bright, or a quick study, did I? Finally, ten years later, I think I’ve got it. Instead of just “telling” my reader what happens, I put them in the scene. Make them a part of it. Give them an emotional connection to the material. What I’m not sure of is when this became the way to go. Continue reading “Some Writing Rules Should Not Be Taken Quite So Literally”
To avoid bogging down prose with overly detailed narrative, it’s important to make wise choices when we write descriptive passages in our stories. Three paragraphs describing a setting or character’s appearance is a big no-no in my book. As a reader, it will turn me off faster than grammatical errors. I know! Bad, right? So how do we create a mental picture with the minimal amount of words? Continue reading “Accessorize Your Characters: Paint a Picture with Fewer Words”
In my work as a professional freelance copyeditor and critiquer for publishers, literary agents, and authors in six continents, I wade through something like two hundred manuscripts a year. It probably won’t surprise you to hear that I come across certain flaws repeatedly in many — if not most — of the manuscripts I examine. These issues are especially endemic to first novels, and when pointed out to the authors, they seem so obvious. They say, “Why didn’t I notice these problems?”
Because of lack of adequate writing experience, helpful critical feedback, and sufficient skill development and training, writers don’t realize they aren’t showing enough — and especially in a scene’s opening paragraphs — to help readers picture where a character is and when the scene is taking place in the story.
The challenge for writers is in determining how and how much to convey to readers what the writer is seeing in her own mind. Continue reading “10 Important Things Writers Often Omit from Their Scenes”