Writing Tips & Tools

Monday, October 01, 2007

Lesson #2 - Show and Tell con't...

by Bonnie Calhoun

Today we are continuing 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 not posting a lot of good stuff!

This is the second lesson of two days of Show and Tell. Blogger ate this post on Friday!

We left off talking about using action rather than narration. Of course, there will be times when you need to resort to narrative summary, especially if you're writing a historical novel or science fiction, both of which usually require conveying a lot of information to your readers before you can touch their emotions.

Even though immediate scens are almost always more engaging than narrative summary be careful when self-editing not to convert all your narrative summary into scenes.

Narrative summary is used to vary the rhythm and texture of your writing. Scens are immediate and engaging, but scene after scene without a break can become relentless and exhausting, especially if you tend to write brief, intense scenes. Every once in a while you'll want to slow down to give your readers a chance to catch their breath.

Narrative summary can give continuity to your story on a larger scale. It is also useful when you have a lot of repetitive action. For example, your writing about a track star participating in several races. If you show all of these races as immediate scenes, they all start looking alike! But if you summarize the first few...have them happen off stage...then the one you eventually show as a scene will have real impact.


How often do you use narrative summary? Are there long passages where nothing happens in real time? Do the main events in your plot take place in summary or in scenes?

If you do have too much narrative summary, which sections do you want to convert into scenes? Does any of it involve major characters, where a scene could be used to flesj out their personalities? Does any of your narrative summary involve major plot twists or surprises? If so, start writing some scenes!

Do you have any narrative summary, or are you bouncing from scene to scene without pausing for breath?

Are you describing your characters' feelings? Have you told us they're angry? irritated? morose? discouraged? puzzled? excited? happy? elated? suicidal? Keep an eye out for any place where you mention an emotion outside of dialogue. Chances are you're telling what you should show. Remember to R.U.E.

What is that? R.U.E. Okay...so I'll add that part in...tomorrow! Mhwahaha!


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