Show and Tell — Part II
Self-Editing for Fiction Writers By Renni Browne & Dave King
I started this series last week because of a discussion amongst a few fellow fiction writers, none of us, I might add, are published. I think one of us had some sort of writing training years ago in a traditional college setting. My writing training is more current and from Christian Writers Guild. We discussed show vs. tell. #selfediting #amwriting #showvtell
We writers tend to think we know it all, but we don’t, and what used to be called “creative writing” has changed dramatically in the last few years. Click to Tweet. I talked about that in last week’s post—how television and movies have changed the readers read and writers need to catch up.
“Writers usually indulge in…small—scale telling to put across character traits or emotions. After all, the primary aim of fiction is to get your readers so involved in the lives of your characters that they feel what your characters feel. And they can’t do that unless you make your characters’ feelings clear. So you tell them. ‘Bishop Pettibone was never a man to allow his religion to interfere with his private life.’ Or ‘Wilbur felt absolutely defeated.’ Or ‘Geraldine was hirrifed at the news.’” Pg. 16
The authors go on to say that the “telling your readers about your characters’ emotions is not the best way to get your readers involved. Far better to show why your characters feel the way they do. Instead of saying ‘Amanda took one look at the hotel room and recoiled in disgust,’ describe the room in such a way that the readers feel that disgust for themselves. You don’t want to give your readers information. You want to give them experiences.” Pg. 16
“People are depressed—or angry or relieved—in their own unique ways, so simple conveying the fact of the emotion to your readers doesn’t really tell them who your character is. It’s nearly always best to resist the urge to explain. Or, as we often write in manuscript margins, R.U.E. Pg. 16
“The tendency to describe a character’s emotion may reflect a lack of confidence on the part of the writer. And more often than not, writers tell their readers things already shown by dialogue and action. It’s as if they’re repeating themselves to make sure their readers get the point.” Pg. 17
R.U.E. is something I have to look out for in my writing. I’ve been through the manuscript of “Meghan’s Choice” about 20 times, and each time, I look for ways I’ve told something instead of showing it. I think there may be a bit of a teacher in all of us when we “explain” things over and over in our manuscripts. It’s a teacher’s job to “explain” something in at least several different ways to make sure their students “get it.” But writing a novel is a completely different animal than any other form of writing, especially these days. Click to Tweet #amwriting #showvtell #selfediting
What about you? What do you think? Leave a comment and let me know.