Writing Tips & Tools

Monday, October 01, 2007

Lesson #3 - R.U.E.

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!

Yesterday I left you with the phrase, "Remember to R.U.E."

Up to this point we've been talking about showing and telling on the large scale, about narrating what should be shown through immediate scenes. But even within scenes there are ways in which you may tell what you should show!

From the Gatsby: The three Mr Mumbles leaned forward "eagerly", that one girl spoke with "enthusiasm", that a man nodded "in affirmation".

Granted, stylistic conventions have changed since 1925, but even so, the telling detracts because it's not needed. We've already been shown what the writer proceeds to tell us.

Telling your readers about your characters' emotions is not the best way to get your readers involved. Far better to shoe why your characters feel the way they do. Instead of saying "Amanda took one look at the hotel room and recioled in disgust," describe the room in such a way that the readers feel that disgust themselves.

You don't want to give your readers information. You want to give them experiences.

It's more work that way, of course. It's easier to say, "Erma was depressed" than to come up with some original bit of action or interior monologue that shows she's depressed. Like if you have her take a bite of her favorite cake and push the rest away...or polish off the whole cake. Everyone has a unique way of expressing emotion.

It's nearly always better to resist the urge to explain. Or as editors so often write in the margins of manuscripts, R.U.E.

1 Comment:

  1. Francis Porter said...
    This is great advice. I'm currently revising one of my final drafts, but with every draft, all the writers in my workshop tell me that either I'm not showing enough emotion or that I'm showing it, rather than telling it. Please keep writing. There aren't enough writing tips out there (there never will be).

Post a Comment