Friday, August 30, 2013

Who cares about the details?



Over this past week, I’ve been revising a few chapters of my Red WIP.  Now that I’ve finished writing the Blue WIP, I’ve switched gears.
 
Writing a first draft can be a rush – pen frantically scribbling, trying to keep up with the inner muse.  It’s probably one of the most exhilarating experiences I’ve ever had.  Each day, I can’t wait to find out what happens and to watch the characters leap from the page.

But for me, the slow, methodical process of editing and revising is even more rewarding.  It’s like practicing the piano.  After hours of practicing, hitting all the wrong notes, playing hands alone, at an excruciatingly slow page, and wondering if the song will get any easier.  (Trust me.  I have experience with this, just ask my piano teacher.)  There’s nothing like finally being able to sit on the bench, open the music and feel my fingers moving automatically.



And that’s exactly how I feel about editing.  It’s the moment to roll up my sleeves and put in the work that can be enjoyed at a later point in time.

It’s all about the details.  Watch passive tense, show don’t tell, create believable dialogue, making sure character’s personalities and motivations are consistent, watching POV, no head hopping, delete unnecessary adverbs, limit dialogue tags, vary sentence length… really, this list could keep going for quite a while.
And to be honest, I feel that I’ve mastered several of the above.

However, there is still one area that still eludes me.  And that’s the details.

I’m never quite sure when the reader wants to know more.  It’s only when my wonderful betas tell me that a scene is lacking.  

I’ve never been a particularly observant person.  In fact, one of my coworkers told me (repeatedly) that I have an appalling lack of curiosity.  I don’t need a detailed explanation for everything.  In fact, most of the time I don’t even need an explanation.  That’s how my brain’s been wired and often, I don’t notice when I leave the details out because I don’t think they’re necessary.

So after forcing myself to expand on the miniscule, I noticed an improvement.  Here’s a before and after:


BEFORE
A small giggle sounded and Aydra whirled around to stare at Rose, whose face held the first smile they had seen since her arrival.  Temar also stared at Rose before looking up at Aydra with bright eyes.  Aydra wanted to laugh and cry and cheer, at the sight of Rose’s smile and it somehow gave her the strength to stand up to her aunt.

“He will only be here a few weeks,” Aydra reminded Sasma.  “We need his help.”


AFTER
At the sound of a small giggle, Aydra whirled around, almost unable to believe it wasn’t a trick of the wind. For the first time since she’d arrived, Rose’s lips quirked upward, the beginning of a smile evident on her face. Temar stared down at the young girl before pulling her in close and kissing the top of her head. Aydra wanted to laugh, cry and cheer at the sight. It made all of the early mornings, the sleepless nights and confrontations with her uncle worth it.

She glanced back toward the kitchen, surprised to see her aunt leaning against the door’s frame. In the shadows of the dusky light, the wrinkles around her eyes deepened. For just a moment, Aydra’s mind tugged on memories best forgotten. The curve of her aunt’s cheeks, as well as the high cheekbones reminded her of her mother, and a longing rose in her chest.

“He’ll only be here a few weeks,” Aydra reminded her aunt. “We need his help.”


What do you think?  Better?  Worse?  How do you add details?

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Writing Ritual - Guest Post by Taylor Lavati

Today, we are privileged to hear the thoughts from Taylor Lavati, author of The Thousand Year Curse.  Be sure to check her book out, as well as her blog: http://thecursebooks.blogspot.com

Read on!

To make your writing the best it can be, you have to get into the writing zone. Well, how do we do this? What even is the writing zone? 

The writing zone is the mentality when you produce the best writing you possibly can. The writing zone is when your brain is focusing one hundred percent on the task at hand. If you’re anything like me, you know that it’s hard to block out the rest of the world and focus on only one thing. 

BUT YOU HAVE TO!

As I was coming near the end of my current project, my brain started to wander to other things, like how will I market it, what should the cover look like, what should the title be, how will audiences react... etc. 

This is not a good thing, especially when you’re supposed to be writing your book! So how do you get your brain to shut up and focus? Simple. 

Environment is everything! For me, I hate working in a cluttered room and on a cluttered surface. Your desk should be the most sacred place in your house. Make it creative and inspiring and where you can feel comfortable. 

Know where your writing is going! To get a good novel going, you have to know where the book is leading. For example, create an outline where you know the beginning, middle and end. The reason I say this is because a lot of times writers start writing hoping it will go somewhere but this is actually counterproductive. You’ll be deleting so much and it’s much better to know where the story is going. 

Find the ritual that makes you calm! My ritual for writing is, I have to eat first. I prefer writing in the morning versus at night. I just end up writing better in the morning. I also like to have a cup of coffee and tea to keep me energized. BUT not too much because then I’ll have to take a bathroom break and that sucks since it breaks up my thoughts.

Sooo... Moral of the story? Find what makes you focus and keeps your mind calm. To get into your writing zone, you need to find a ritual that works for you. Whether it’s wearing your special undies, or writing outside, your ritual is special to you and only you will know what works. Find that ritual because one you do, you’ll be writing better than ever!

Who am I?
Taylor is a twenty-two year old student in her small town in Connecticut. Studying early childhood education, Taylor wants to be a kindergarten teacher but has always had a soft spot for English. The Curse Books were Taylor's first writing venture that spiraling into hopes of a career in writing. The Thousand Year Curse is now available on amazon. She focuses on running her blog, writing new books and enjoying time with her dog, Beau and boyfriend, Chris. 

Be sure to check out my post on her blog about writer's block: http://thecursebooks.blogspot.com/2013/08/wednesday-writing-advice.html

Monday, August 26, 2013

Bad Guys: As Told by Wreck it Ralph





Bad guys have one job.  They create conflict and force the protagonist to overcome some kind of obstacle.  Often in writing, especially for children and youth, the bad guy has no real motive.  They just want the good guy to suffer.  And I admit, there have been the stories when I’ve created antagonists without bothering to ask what motivates them, why they fight so hard to thwart the MC.

Last fall, my husband and I went to watch Disney’s Wreck it Ralph, mainly because my husband loves video games.  I was less than interested, but I went to support him.  Within only a few minutes, I was enraptured.  It’s very rare to find a movie where the main characters’ motives are so clearly stated.

Spoilers ahead!

Each character has one desire, and wants one thing.  Each desire directly contrasts everyone else’s, creating the natural conflict.  Ralph wanted to be with everyone else, up in the penthouse.  That cost one medal.  Vanellope wanted to race.  That cost one coin.  Even Turbo had a desire: to be the best racer ever. 
None of their goals were bad, necessarily, but there was only one coin/medal, and for Turbo to race, he had to keep Vanellope from doing so.

I watched the movie again recently, and I was struck by the opening scene.  Ralph was a classic bad guy.  If the story had been from the point of view of Felix, we might not have been so sympathetic to Ralph’s situation. 

In everyone’s story, there is going to be someone or something that gets in our way.  Everyone has goals and desires that directly conflict.  Two or more people may apply for the same ‘dream job’.  There may be multiple people interested in dating someone.  Life is full of natural conflict, but it’s important for us to always remember that we are neither the good guy nor the bad guy.  We can only be ourselves and focus on our own goals and aspirations, remembering that everyone else is doing the same.



Ralph was created to be the ‘bad guy.’  But he learned how to keep that from controlling his relationships, and his life.  And we can’t allow situations to control who we are.

And as writers, we need to remember that there’s always another side of the story. 



Friday, August 23, 2013

Questioning the Characters

Where are you from?

How many times have you been asked that?  Every time two people meet, it’s a standard question.  When meeting someone, we want to know where they’re coming from, where they were before.

But after answering that question, how many of you are asked this:

Where did you come from before that?

This question is incredibly familiar to me.  I’m from Colorado, but I don’t look it.  Even after telling them where I was born, I get asked where I’m from before that.

Or I get a puzzled look, and “But where are you FROM?” as though I didn’t understand the question.
Of course, I understand why.  I have Japanese ancestry that makes people assume I’m oriental.  But that’s not the culture I most identify with.  I was raised in Colorado.  I even associate more with the Hispanic culture than the Japanese one.

Dressed up in a family performance of Mulan


But again and again, I’m asked the same question.

And when that happened again this week, I began to think about what this question could really mean.
Do we as writers ask our characters where they’re from?  I’ve heard advice to “interview” our characters, asking them what their likes and dislikes are.  I’ve read some amazing interview questions where the character is probed – even down to their favorite ice cream flavor.

I think we can learn everything about our characters by asking this one simple – but very loaded – question.
If I know where a character comes from, I would know the experiences that molded and changed them.  I would know who, what and where is most important in their lives.  I would know exactly how they would react in any situation, because I know their personality and how they’ve acted in the past.  I’d understand their driving force.

Right now, I’m struggling with one of my MC’s because she’s starting to feel like a piece of cardboard.  I have a fantastic beta going through the WIP currently, but I know that my real work will be in finding out who she is by learning where she is from.  In order to do that I’m writing character sketches of her life – interactions with family members and outsiders.  In the numerous drafts I’d written of this WIP since high school, it never occurred to me to investigate this character further.  As I explore her childhood, learn how she was raised and how she interacted with her brother and cousin (2 more main characters), I learn more about where I went wrong.


What about you?  How do you learn more about your characters?  Do you use interviews?  Character sketches?  What advice do you have for creating rounded characters?

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Diagnosing the Problem

Many of us may not realize it, but one of the things that we know better than anything else is our bodies.  From birth, we spent every moment of our lives in our bodies.  Because of that, we should know when something’s not right.  There’s always the little clues, the telltale signs that we sometimes ignore.

It could be that we’re just feeling more run down than usual.  It could be that a certain muscle is sore or that we can’t move as easily as we used to.  Or maybe it’s a strange odor coming out of our urine.

But more times than not, we ignore the symptoms, excusing them for something else.  I’m tired?  Well, maybe I just didn’t get enough sleep.  I’m sore?  Well, it’s probably because I made a funny movement, or because I’m not used to exercising.  Urine?  Probably ate something different.

And many times, it’s probably true.  But what happens in those rare moments when it’s something more serious?  When do we realize it?

As a nurse, I’ve seen patients who have ignored something until it becomes much more serious than it could have been.  I’ve also seen patients who worry about every symptom when they can be easily explained.  How do we tell the difference between a heart murmur and just lack of exercise?  What if we mistake forgetfulness as old age when it may be dementia? 



Doctors and nurses have different tests that they use to zero in on specific problems.  Yes, there are CT’s, MRI’s, but those aren’t used until the basics are used.  Basics like blood pressure, pulse, temperature.  Sometimes the smallest things can give the greatest clues.

I think that sometimes as writers, we do the same thing.  We know our stories better than anyone else.  We’ve been with it since its inception, and there might be those moments when we think that something might be wrong.  A word, a sentence, a scene, but we brush it off.  How could anything possibly be wrong?
But if we continue without stopping to fix the problem, it may grow.  It may develop into something more serious.  Suddenly, instead of a simple infection that needs antibiotics, suddenly we’re in the hospital with sepsis, and all of our organs are going into failure. 

How do we know when it’s something serious? 

1. Always follow your instincts.  If you feel that something’s wrong, it probably is.   

2. Get a second opinion.  When we feel sick, we go to a doctor.  We get someone to look at it, and we go to someone who has medical knowledge.  Writers don’t have doctors, but they do have critiquers and betas.  They are our doctors.  And if you have a good beta, they can also be the nurse, helping through all the difficult healing process after the diagnosis has been made.

3. Do your research.  If your doctor tells you that you have several diseases and puts you on a diet of peanut butter and celery only (I’ve had that happen), do your research.  Go to another doctor.  One critiquer may hate one section, want you to change your style or even a major plot point.  Before tearing your work apart, ask someone else.  I think having at least three critiquers is best.  If the majority agrees, then it needs to be looked at and fixed.

4. Be compliant with the prescription.  This can be one of the most difficult.  It’s like when the doctor says to take an antibiotic for 10 days and you feel better after 5.  Do you keep taking it?  (As a nurse, I have to say YES!  Take it for the whole amount of time!)  For writing, if your betas tell you to watch passive voice in a section, does it mean that it’s the only section that needs it?  It’s probably what’s needed in the entire work. Your doctor tells you to cut down your sugar intake?  Is it easy?  No.  Will it benefit you in the long run?  Of course.  Likewise, if your betas tell you to cut down the back story and info dumps, it's probably not just to make you suffer.  They want your story to be better in the long run.

5. Don’t give up.  Even if the doctor gives you a poor prognosis, that doesn’t mean that it’s impossible.  It may mean that you have to fight harder, but it doesn’t mean that you should give up.


Any personal experiences getting your writing diagnosed?

Monday, August 19, 2013

Writer's Rant

Recently, I’ve been noticing a trend that has really started to drive me crazy.  I don’t like to talk about controversial subjects, but this one has gotten to the point that I can’t keep my mouth shut.

I’ve been reading/watch a lot of hate toward Twilight.  Well, no, let me correct that, I've been reading a lot of hate toward Stephanie Meyer.   I wouldn’t call myself a fan of her works, but I have read all four books, and I found them an enjoyable escape. 

For some reason, I’ve seen authors, artists, writers take her writing and tear it down, criticizing the story, the writing, the characters, and even the author herself.  Sure, we all have different opinions, and we’re entitled to them, but I don’t understand why we as artists take it upon ourselves to tell others when their art isn’t up to par? 

If we were to compare writing to art, look at all the different forms that exist?  If Monet were to ‘critique’ Picasso’s work, would he approve of it?  Even if he were to say that it was trash, unbelievable, the work of a three-year-old, that’s not to say that there aren’t people who prefer Picasso over Monet.  Picasso is one of my favorite artists, but I also like Van Gogh, but one of my sister hates both of them.  (Something I learned after taking her to the Prada for a special Van Gogh exhibit and the Reina Sofia to see Guernica.)  

Is she entitled to her opinion?  

Of course. 

Am I entitled to mine?  

Yes.

But we don’t fight over who’s right, over which artist trumps over the others. 

So why do we do that as writers?

Just as every artist is entitled their own style, and subject, writers do as well.  If an adult horror writer were to read a MG fantasy, wouldn’t there be some aspects that he doesn’t approve of?

And yes, I know that many people state that Meyer’s writing in and of itself isn’t refined, or she uses too many adverbs, etc.  But my question is, will the reader notice that?  Who is it to say what works and does not work for a novel?  Is it our responsibilities as writers to criticize all other authors?

Meyer has done something that most writers would probably love.  She’s created a world, a story and characters so vivid that they created a small band of fanatics.  And ultimately, isn’t that the whole point of writing?  Even if a person writes something that’s considered some of the best writing by the greatest literary critics but has no audience, then does the author truly accomplish their goals?

I've also heard that they don't approve of her stories.  Are writers expected to give positive, uplifting, completely nondestructive relationships?  If so, I have to say that there are many writers who would fit into the same 'condemnation.'

Beyond that, shouldn’t we also cheer each other on?  We’re all working toward the same thing, and when someone makes it, we should be happy for them, not tear them apart.   In nursing, it’s said that nurses eat their young.  Is that true in the writing world as well?  Do writers feel threatened by upcoming new writers when they hit it big almost immediately?  Or is it that they don't think that the new author has anything to contribute until they have experience?  And what are people looking at when they say "bad writing?"  Is it the syntax?  The characterization?  The plot?

I honestly have no answers.  Do you?  Someone please explain this to me! 

Friday, August 16, 2013

Writing News for the Week

Time to do a happy dance!

Yesterday, I finished the first draft of my Blue WIP, and I must say there were quite a few surprises at the very end, leaving another opening for another story.

So is this the end?  Have I finished my manuscript?

No!  Of course not!  There are several things that are very unique about this WIP.  Like I said before, I wrote this one without any sort of outline, which is quite a first for me.  I’ve never been able to finish a WIP without knowing where I’m going.  And that will create much more work for me in the next revision.  There were plot points I’m almost positive that I deserted halfway through.  I also have a character who just stood on the sidelines as the other characters ignored him. I think he needs to do a little bit more in the next draft.

For now, I’m going to leave it alone for now.  I’ve sent it off to my Alpha, the one person I trust with everything I’ve ever written.  In fact, she’s read everything, whether she wanted to or not.  And she’s not afraid to tell me what she really thinks. 

Then the revising begins.  Going through and rewriting just about everything.  

My first drafts are like very detailed outlines, I don’t focus on the wording or if I’m using passive tense.  I only focus on the story that needs to be told.  Now I'm going to have to focus on the syntax, the verbage, all of the stuff that I ignored while frantically scribbling away.  This is where the real work begins.

Fortunately for me, I love revising and editing.  It’s probably my most favorite part of writing.  I can use colors to focus on different points.  Green for dialogue, red for descriptions, purple for themes.  I love printing out a draft and crossing out the words, making it messy and crazy, knowing that eventually, the mess will become something even more beautiful.  It's kind of like deep cleaning.  The messier it gets when you first start, the better it looks in the end.

So while I let that WIP sit, I’ll begin working on revising my Red WIP.  I’ve received several critiques and reviews that I think will help me create a much stronger draft.  While I do that, I have someone beta reading my White WIP, for when I finish with the Red WIP's revisions.


What are you working on now?  How do you edit?  And which do you prefer, editing or writing? 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Shine On Award!

I know I usually don't post on Thursdays, but today is a bit of an exception.

I have just been nominated for a Shine On Award!  It's my first blogging award, and I'm very excited, mostly because now I get to acknowledge the awesome bloggers I've come in contact with.


Of course, the greatest thanks goes to Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys for the nomination.

So what exactly does this entail?



Here are the rules:

1. Display the award logo on your blog.
2. Link back to the person who nominated you.
3. State 7 things about yourself.
4. Nominate 15 other bloggers for this award and link to them.
5. Notify those bloggers of the nomination and the award requirements.



7 Things about me:

1. I am bilingual.  I leaned Spanish while I was studying in Spain, and my husband and I still speak Spanglish at home.
2. I am part Japanese, but I do not like seafood at all.  I think Salmon is the only thing I find tolerable.
3. I am a nurse.  I love Geriatrics, but my first love (in nursing specifics) is Alzheimer's and Dementia.  I find that fascinating.
4. I've played the piano since I was 6.  And the first piece of furniture I bought when I got married was a small spinet piano. 
5. Thanksgiving is my most favorite holiday.  Actually, there are days when I just crave a good Thanksgiving, so I invite friends over, make 5-6 pies and have a whole Thanksgiving dinner.  Doesn't matter if it's actually November.
6. I color code my house.  The kitchen has to be red and black.  The bathroom has to be violet and moss green.  This is how I organize.
7. I am a huge Messi fan.  Which doesn't bode well in our home, since my husband is a staunch Real Madrid fan.  


My Nominees for the Shine on Award: 

1. http://agonystory.blogspot.com/
2. http://melaniedrake.blogspot.com/
3. http://deathinbloomthenovel.blogspot.com/
4. http://daggersunderdaisies.blogspot.com/
5. http://www.theprocrastiwriter.com/
6. http://elanajohnson.blogspot.com/
7. http://abookinside.blogspot.com/
8. http://lorifolkman-author.blogspot.com/
9. http://maasmith.com/
10. http://alexandralynwood.com/
11. http://noelashland.wordpress.com/
12. http://calliehunter.wordpress.com/
13. https://eurasianflavour.wordpress.com/
14. http://edmartinwriter.com/
15. http://anmanatsu.com/
16. http://writershenanigans.wordpress.com/
17. http://maryharner.blogspot.com/







Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Women in Literature

Recently, I began questioning the motives of one of my characters.  Not because it wasn’t a natural motivation, but because I was worried about my portrayal of her as a woman.

I’ve been reading and watching comments about the portrayal of women in media.  They’re considered too weak, too focused on relationships and their own feelings.  Society thinks that women need to be strong, to be able to fight and excel in whatever field they put their mind to.

I have no objections to that.  I think that it’s a good thing that women are given that opportunity. It could be considered a compliment that we can do anything we want.  But what happens when a woman’s desires aren’t focused on a career or a political cause? 

My character was focused on her family, and wanting to keep them safe. Sure, there’s an element of romance, but in the end, all she wants is to be there for the children, make sure that they grow up correctly, and that they always feel loved.  I began to wonder if it was an appropriate goal, or if I would alienate readers because her fight and focus is only on family. 

I presented my question in a forum, and received an answer that made me smile.

The responder mentioned Molly Weasley.  I think she is really one of the unsung women heroes.  I hadn’t even stopped to give her a second thought.  But she’s always been there, taking care of her many children, struggling to provide all their school supplies, sending them howlers when they disobey, taking in their friends when they were alone … and of course, there will always be the moment that she killed Bellatrix to protect her family.  An act that I don't think anyone would doubt her character would do.

And as I considered the powerhouse that is Molly Weasley, I realized how many other women I’ve met who are really the unsung heroes in society.  We can all find articles about women who are CEO’s, doctors, lawyers, but how many articles focus on the women who put family first?  The women who could be earning a large amount of money, but instead decide to spend their time with their children, stretching their budgets, and sacrificing their own needs and desires so that their children can take dance lessons, or have enough equipment to play soccer.

My own mother was an example of a woman who was willing to sacrifice so much for us.  I wish that there were moments that we’d stopped to thank her, but many times, her sacrifices weren’t as obvious as they could have been. 

I think we need more women in literature like Molly Weasley and my mother.  We need strong women who are willing to take a stand and create a better future for their family. 


Can any of you think of such women in literature?  

Monday, August 12, 2013

No Pain, No Gain

I am not an assertive person.  I can take almost anything without fighting back because I really want to avoid confrontation.

The only time that this is not true is when it’s about someone that I care about.  Someone can say something bad about me, but watch out if they say anything about my closest friends.  Boys who try to hurt my sisters better start running because I’m coming after them.  Though I’m not a mother, I have a feeling I’ll probably be overprotective with them as well.

I hate to see injustices.  To see others picked on when it’s not necessary.  It’s one of the reasons why I’m so terrible at sports.  I hate the fact that there has to be a loser.  During Junior High, we played soccer during lunch.  Whenever my team started winning, I switched to the other.  Why?  Because they needed help.  They were now the ones at a disadvantage.  There were some days that I would switch sides 8-9 times. 



So what does that have to do with writing?

Characters are like our babies.  We’ve created them, we’ve helped them become who they are.  Those are the kinds of people that I would do anything to protect.

But in protecting my characters, I end up hurting the story. 

No one wants to read about someone whose life is absolutely perfect.  We as readers want to see the characters suffer and rise above their struggles.  If they don’t have to overcome anything, then why should we care? 

That’s why we have to make our characters cry.  Not just small tears, but giant floods until they suffer from dehydration.  If the character goes too long before the next set of trials, we’re actually doing them a disservice.  We need to learn from our mistakes.  And to do that, we have to make mistakes.  We have to get out there, get our hands dirty and get our hearts broken. 

Really, that should be the way we live our lives as well.  Staying where it’s safe won’t hurt, but it won’t help us grow.  If I were to go back and focus on the moments where I grew as a human, where I became the person I am now, it would be in the moments of trials.  Those moments where I wasn’t sure if I could stand any more are what define me.  Not because of the trials that I experienced, but how I responded to them.

And that’s what our characters need.  We can’t protect them from everything.  They need the chance to get back up.  They need that opportunity to prove themselves, not just to themselves, but to us as readers. 


So although I may not enjoy causing pain, I get satisfaction out of knowing that I’m doing the right thing for my characters, and for my story.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Sequels

Recently, I’ve had 2 betas going through two different WIP’s.  One is starting on the white one and the other just finished the Red one. 

As my beta finished my Red WIP, he made an interesting comment.  He said that the way that I set up the ending made it perfect to follow up with a sequel. 

I’ve never been fond of sequels, especially in my own writing.  I always thought that if their story is over, then why would you come back later to invade on their privacy again?  I like to think that once my story is over and my characters get a satisfying ending, I don’t want to imagine that they have any more conflict.  Yet, that’s not true in real life.  Even when we get everything we want, a degree, a house, marriage, etc, then we always think that everything is going to be perfect.

But once I finished the Red WIP, I still felt like there was more of the story to tell.  Not for my Main Characters, but for some of the minor ones who hadn't gotten enough time in the sun.  And perhaps that’s why the story ended like it did.  A part of me knew that something more would happen.  In fact, when I finished the story, I had to add an epilogue, just because it didn't feel finished yet.  That's when I understood.

Now, I’m more willing to give sequels a second chance, because I understand why an author might be inclined to write one.  And there have been several sequels that I’ve read that ended up improving the story.


I know this post is a little short, but it's because I want to hear your thoughts.  Do characters deserve their privacy after the story’s told?  Do sequels give them a second chance?  How do you feel about sequels? 

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Show, Don't Tell: Guest Post by Gina Drayer

Today, we have a special treat because the talented and insightful Gina Drayer.  She and I met through a writer's critique site and we've decided to guest post on one another's blogs this week.  She's going to present some new insights on the idea of 'show don't tell,' which I look forward to because that's something I struggle with quite a bit!  

Read on!


In a continuation of my Dear Author... series, today I'm here to talk about the dreaded "show, don't tell."

This is the number one advice given to new writers, and often the one that's misused and misinterpreted.  It's one I struggle with as a writer, so I have no advice as to how to do it effectively.  But as a reader I can tell you what doesn't work.

In an effort to "Show" the characters emotional state writers will often describe every twitch, head bob, and breathe a character makes.  If you find your text filled with sighs, nods, shrugs and eyebrow raises then you might have fallen a victim of this.

His heart hammered in his chest.  His eyes widened in surprise.  Her lip curled in a smirk.  He let out a sigh, shoulders slumped.  He clenched his fist at his sides.

These phrases scattered through out a work are descriptive to "show" the reader the character's emotions, but when every feeling is described in detail with gestures and facial expressions all you've done is give your character Tourette's.

An excellent example of how this can go wrong can be found in a breakdown of New Moon's Chapter 18 (this is not a critique of Stephanie Myers and her books, but just an illustration of what I mean).  Within that chapter alone there are eyes that flash, flicker, dart, glare, stare, relocated, widen, go flat, penetrate, blink, dazed and far away, show revulsion and reflect.  And this was just the descriptions of the eyes!!  There are many examples of facial expressions and arm/leg movement.  To see a full breakdown check out: http://reasoningwithvampires.tumblr.com/post/8414226270.


While reading this not only gives me the impression that the character has some sort of uncontrollable tic, but it also interrupts the pacing of the piece.  It slows down the reading and brings you out of the story.


So when it comes to "Show, Don't Tell" is there a meaningful difference between saying: "She was scared." And "Her eyes widen and she inhaled suddenly."  Not really, to be honest they are both lazy storytelling.  Show those actions not through detailed descriptions of her facial expressions, but through her dialog and actions.


Try perhaps:


When she heard the click of the gun safety, she turned around and saw the end of pistil staring back at her.  "Please.  You don't have to do this," she said in a low whisper, trying to keep her breath steady, but she could already feel the panic rise in her throat.

Sure, sure, pick apart my writing.  But this is just an illustration of how a little bit of showing, a little bit of telling and some dialog paint a better picture then over describing every detail just to show that she was afraid.

She heard the gun safety click off.  Afraid, her eyes went wide and she stopped breathing.  Sweat broke out on her forehead and she closed her eyes.  With her hands clenched at her side, she swallowed and said, "Don't shoot."

So dear author, please, please don't bombard me with over descriptive facial gestures and shrugs.  I have an imagination and if you've given your character depth and a strong voice I naturally add those actions in my mind.  I feel the fear, the love, the heartache, the joy.  I'll fill in the blanks that you leave behind.

Gina Drayer is a part time Author, full time mother and geek at heart.  Her blog, The Agony of the Untold Story (http://agonystory.blogspot.com/) follows her musing on publishing, books, being a geek, and raising children.

To read my post on her blog, go to http://agonystory.blogspot.com/2013/08/id-like-to-welcome-krista-quintana-from.html

Monday, August 5, 2013

Organizing

Writing is hard to organize.  

You have to keep track of settings, characters, chapters, scenes, plot, motivation… there’s so much that goes into one novel.  I’m not the most organized of people, but with writing, it becomes a necessity.  Otherwise, my stories would melt and lose its form.

When I began my first novel, I kept a binder with everything I needed.  I had a separate page protector for each character, setting and creature I created.  I kept lists to remind myself of what people looked like or the order of events.  I collected pictures of people to inspire different characters, along with maps of the settings.  I wrote out character biographies, adding it to their pages, and at one point my outline was 21 pages long.  It was a thick binder, but it did its job.  I kept on track with the outline and for the first time ever, I finished my novel.

Since then, I’ve tried organizing with word documents, ywriter and scrivener.  I’ve kept it on the computer and printed it out on paper.  I enjoy ywriter because you can pull up different windows, and I like scrivener because I can put things side by side.  I can also write notes or highlight.

So after so much prewriting, what works best for me?

I still like binders.  Maybe it’s the visual aspect, or the physical.  I can add pages wherever I want and I can flip between pages without needing to keep a list of windows at the bottom of my screen.  Otherwise, my computer starts looking like a popup book.  And believe me, that’s happened!  There have been the days when I have 8 or 9 word documents opened, along with a writing supplement program.

And of course, with binders, it is much easier to use COLORS!

Each of my WIP are in different colored binders, to keep them separated. 



Maybe that’s why.  I just like how pretty it looks.

I also edit/revise with colors.  I feel that when I do it pen to paper, it slows me down and I actually concentrate on the words.  I’ve also had drafts where I use different colored pens to highlight different areas of writing: passive/active, to be verbs, repetition, etc.



Of course, sometimes I do take it a bit overboard.


How do all of you organize?  What works best for you?