Monthly Archives: September 2012

Revisiting Some Old Friends (Part 2)

So I wanted to talk to you about Showing not Telling again.  I think this post is going to be a little long, so please try to bear with me.  Again, if you didn’t read the previous post, I am writing at…2:42 AM now.  So please forgive me if I make a little less sense than usual.

The reason I wanted to talk about this again is that I really am seeing a lot of books that fall into that trap of Telling not Showing.  I know I’ve talked about it before, so I’m going to try and give a more thorough explanation, using different examples.

If you went onto a talk show tomorrow, you would find that smiling, bubbly host asking you lots of personal questions.  Probably intrusive ones you don’t really feel comfortable answering on national TV.

And one of those questions, you might expect, would be something like, “What was it like for you growing up?”

At that point, you would be perfectly within your right to say, “I was born on May 18th, 1986.  My parents divorced when I was three and my sister was five.  It really tore me up.  I didn’t think I would ever trust anyone enough to agree to marry them, knowing what my parents had gone through.”

That’s fine.  That is the epitome of “telling.”  That’s what you do when you’re asked a question.  And, in this situation, it is okay.

It is not okay to talk like that in a book, with the exception of, perhaps, a biography.  Just as it would be totally inappropriate for you to jump up and attempt to mime your childhood for a talk show’s audience….

…you cannot turn your book into a personal’s ad for your main character.

The thing about books is that readers like to figure things out on their own.  It is exceptionally boring to read something like, “John was terrified of dating because of a bad experience he had five years prior where his date dumped Tuna Flambe on his lap.”  It is much more interesting to see a scene in which John is on a date, nervous, fidgeting, and fighting the flashbacks of the tuna fiasco.  Don’t believe me?  I’ll leave it to your judgement.

Option 1 – Telling: John was terrified of dating because of a bad experience he had five years prior where his date dumped Tuna Flambe on his lap.

Option 2 – Showing: John couldn’t keep his leg from shaking.  His eyes darted toward the exit.  It wouldn’t be an easy escape; there were at least five other tables between him and freedom.  Still, it couldn’t be as bad as last time, when he’d had tuna flakes dripping off his crotch as he’d bolted for the door.

“Am I boring you?”

John jumped and looked back at the gorgeous blonde sitting across from him.  Gina had had red hair.  She is not Gina, he told himself firmly.  She didn’t even order the tuna flambe.  Mainly because this restaurant didn’t serve that dish.

“No…sorry,” he said, maybe a little too late.

She was not amused.

“I’m sorry, Dana.”

“Amber.”

“Amber.  Sorry.  I just…I can’t do this.  I’m sorry.”

Five tables between him and the exit, and each one of them was occupied by confused restaurant patrons, watching John’s Scramble of Shame as he fled the establishment.  Five years.  Five whole years since…the incident, and he was still running.  I’m going to need five more before I can make it to the main course, he thought bitterly.

END

So.  Which did you like better?  And, no, before you ask, the difference isn’t length.  It’s not.  The length is necessary if you want the reader to have a journey to follow.  There is no journey in Option 1.  There is a journey in Option 2.  I guess the length is also there because Showing uses a combination of so many different elements, like dialogue, narration, thoughts, etc.  It’s like an organ system that runs a living being.  Each part does its own job.  So, when you’re writing, really think about how you can show your readers the important details.  Make them feel the burn of the hot tuna searing them through their seersucker pants right along with your protagonist.  That’s what keeps a reader, well…reading.

Done and done!  Don’t forget to check out the new Behind the Scenes page where you can see exactly how I make the magic happen.  (Requests for a section on how to draw the Yeti will be accepted, and taken into consideration)

Word of the Day: Fiasco (n) – a complete and ignominious failure.

(Ignominious (adj): – discreditable; humiliating)

2 Comments

Filed under books, Humor, writing

Revisiting Some Old Friends

I have…so much to say.  I should never have gotten a life (read: a job) knowing I have a blog in which I will want to post every last thought (and drawing) that comes to my mind.  Also, it’s 2:10 AM Pacific time.  So if, you know…I make no sense and my writing is full of mistakes…yeah, that’s why.  So despite my exhaustion, I’m going to try really hard to be quick and concise, with less text and more fun drawings.  Oh also, I just realized I have no energy to draw right now (I barely have the ability to make words happen on this screen) so this is probably going to be posted at a reasonable hour, after I’ve had a chance to draw.  So just know…this was written at an ungodly time.  It will be posted at a more godly hour.  Which is…I don’t know like…2:34 PM?  That sounds like a godly hour.

Ok, so as the title of this post suggests, I’m going to revisit two older topics and expand upon them.  First!  A political cartoon.  I drew this on a white board while I was in a Sociology class in London, and I decided to recreate it here for you:

Ladies and gentlemen, my grasp of politics.

Right, number ONE!

How to start a novel.  I wrote about this waaaaay back when I was a really bad writer.  Here’s what I want to say about that:

You need to hook your reader in.  How you start your novel is your own choice, but you should be aware that A) The opening line will probably change, at least once, before your project is complete and B) You should try to read that opening line through the eyes of someone who knows nothing about your book.  They haven’t even read the synopsis on the back, the lazy fucks.  And now they want you to impress them, despite their goldfish attention spans.

So, SELL IT!  Bounce ideas off of friends and family.  And, referring back to point A, don’t worry too much about it until you’ve written a significant portion of your book, if not all of it.  Just slap something down to start with, go from there, and then go back to it. That’s my advice.  One of the books I’m currently reading for work has a great opening line, which is what made me think of this topic.  Obviously I can’t tell you what the line was, but I can tell you it was a direct address to the reader.  Which is pretty much what I do in this blog.  Like, “You really need to try to avoid stepping on scorpions.”

 

To finish up, I have started writing a third draft of my newest book tonight.  Each draft has its own opening sentence, and I like the current one the best.  Here they are:

Draft 1 – The top half of the notepad slipped out of my hand and slapped me in the face, refusing to be bent back, out of my way.

Draft 2 – Dear Ms. Kramer,

 You think you know how to tie a necktie, but you are wrong!

Draft 3 – I know Deaf.  I live Deaf.

Just a quick heads-up: my main character isn’t Deaf.  Ooo, intrigue.

Yep, this has already gone too long.  I have to keep my readers’ goldfish attention spans in mind, too, you know.

Well…I have to keep my goldfish attention span in mind.  Frankly, I know that if I can’t hold my own attention for the duration of a blog post, I probably won’t be able to hold anyone else’s either.

Gonna start the companion post to this one right now.  Look forward to a more extensive look at Showing and not Telling AND, I think, a Behind-the-Scenes Page that will be going up soon.

Regards,

Rebecca Leviton
Editorial Staff

Word of the Day: Commence (v) – to begin; start

P.S. Wow, it’s 2:52.  I came pretty damn close to my prediction.  I guess 2:52 is more godly than 2:34.

2 Comments

Filed under books, Humor, writing

A Sociological Experiment

So there was this one post of Hyperbole and a Half where Allie, the writer, said she had to be famous by Thursday.  And, while I feel I have a bit more time than that to gain fame and fortune (I mean, I’m writing this on a Wednesday, and she wrote hers on a Sunday), I think I have to agree with her.  I need to get famous.  Because I don’t think I’d do well living on the streets.  To be sure of this, I decided to conduct an experiment in which I tried to live on the street.

I started by walking out the front door, large cardboard box in hand, and setting up shop on the curb in front of my house.  I crawled inside my nice little box and thought about how my life would change over the next few days as this experiment progressed.

Then it got a bit hot, so I went back inside.

My results from this extensive study led me to believe that I just wouldn’t do well without the basic amenities of life – soap, indoor plumbing, refrigeration, chocolate, etc.

I’m lucky enough to have stumbled upon a new subject for a book…which is me.  I know I did a whole post on writing what you know where I basically railed against the concept the entire time, but I want to remind you that I wrote another post where I said I wasn’t against doing that…I was just against doing only that.  In this book, I’m pretty much sticking to writing what I know.  That is, it’s based very closely on my current life of reading ridiculous query letters and then wishing my books could get published.  I’ve got almost 7,000 words already, which is pretty good, considering I started the book on Monday, and then restarted it on Tuesday (yesterday).

Aside from that, I’m really banking on Hellbound making it big.  I mean…that book has “movie” written all over it.  As much as it saddens me to say this, authors tend not to make lots of money unless their book becomes an international best-seller/gets turned into a movie.  And, honestly, I’d be okay with just the international best-seller bit.  But, as you well know, when a book does at all well, it will inevitably be turned into a movie.  I hope I don’t sound too shallow, but it’d be really cool to see my books get published and stuff.  And I really look forward to book signings, because one of the biggest reasons I started writing was to share my stories, and book signings are the conduit through which authors can meet their readers and see that their stories have touched some lives.  God that was a long sentence.

So yeah, I’ll give it ’til Thursday, December 24th, 2015, which will be my 25th birthday.  If I’m not famous by then, I might as well use whatever savings I have to buy a large refrigerator – I’ll donate the appliance to charity and keep the box for myself.

Word of the Day: Sociology (n) – the science or study of the origin, development, organization, and functioning of human society; the science of the fundamental laws of social relations, institutions, etc.

3 Comments

Filed under books, Humor, writing