Writing Tips & Tools

Monday, October 01, 2007

Lesson #1 - Show and Tell

by Bonnie Calhoun

Today we are starting editing lessons from the book Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King.

These lessons will be shortened overviews of the chapters and by no means should be a substitute for buying the book. I'm rereading but skipping a lot of good stuff!

This first lesson is going to be two days of Show and Tell.

What exactly makes a scene a scene? For one thing it takes place in real time. Your readers watch events as they unfold, whether those events are a group discussion of the merits of Woody Allen flicks, or a woman lying in a field pondering the meaning of life. In scenes, events are seen as they happen rather than described after the fact. Even flashbacks...Don't cringe...Sometimes they're necessary...Show events as they unfold, although they have unfolded in the past within the context of the story!

Scenes also contain action, something that happens. Of course anything that can go into a scene can also be narrated. And since scenes are usually harder to write than narration, many writers rely too heavily on narrative summary to tell their stories.

The result is often page after page, chapter after chapter of writing that reads clearly, perhaps even stylishly, but with no specific setting, no specific characters, no dialogue.

Since engagement is exactly what a fiction writer wants to accomplish, you're well advised to rely heavily in immediate scenes to put your story across. You want to draw your readers into the world you've created, make them feel a part of it, make them forget where they are.

And you can't do this effectively if you tell your readers about your world secondhand! You have to take them there. 'Showing' your story to your readers through scenes will not only give your writing immediacy. It will give your writing transparency. One of the easiest ways to look like an amateur is to use mechanics that direct attention to themselves and away from the story.

Of course there will be times when you need to resort to narrative summary, especially if your writing a historical novel or scifi, both of which usually require conveying a lot of information to your readers before you can touch their emotions.

We'll talk more about this in the next chapter, but you'd be surprised at how much exposition can be converted into scenes...right Mimi?

That's it for today, except for the quotable quotes below! Join us again tomorrow for More Self-Editing for Fiction Writers

1 Comment:

  1. Mister Gibson said...
    Your articles are very informative, i am going to give short story writing a go, i will check your articles for advice, thanks, Mick..

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