Show Don’t Tell!?!?

  Show don’t tell—at once the best and worst piece of advice a writer can hear. The first reaction is “But I’m telling a story!” The next thought in line is “this isn’t a screen play!” A writer must balance their story with visual descriptors to avoid setting their story in a void. If the setting is not intrinsic to the story, then the audience will have a more difficult time sinking into it, melding with it. For example, while taking a writing class in my undergraduate program, I found myself in a discussion with a fellow student, about his work—a highly emotional tale about homosexual lovers in Nazi Germany. But he didn’t know anything about Berlin in 1938. His knowledge of the setting he’d chosen for his opus was based on WWII movies. Most of the story happened in very neutral environments that only happened to have a Swastika or Nazi flag in them. Without the Third Reich, his story could have taken place in New Jersey 1978 or Dubai 2001. It could have happened in space, aboard the starship Velvet. He was failing in his primary task of showing us, the audience, the world his characters lived in. His story happened in a void and made it unsympathetic to everyone. Setting and place is just one aspect of “show don’t tell.” The other piece is engagement of the reader. Look at the following example: A: He drank the whiskey. It burned and he coughed. His eyes watered. He sighed. B: He jerked his head back and choked down the liquid gold. The smoky poison made his throat clench tight. His eyes, suddenly wet from the burning vapors, turned the piss colored lights of the dirty bar into watery snowflakes. As the chemical heat suffused his body, he let out a long breath. Both A and B accomplish the same thing: they tell us that the character had some whiskey. In both A and B we get a sense for the characters comfort level with whiskey. That’s where the similarities stop. B also tells us that the character is in a bar (not a void), more about what the character is experiencing and feeling. The character is more real because we can more easily imagine his discomfort. His eyes are burning; he’s fighting back a knee-jerk cough from a shot of hard liquor. We also get the impression that the character is under stress—but we don’t know how or from what. In fact, while B gives us huge amounts of information, it leaves us with many questions. Not to mention the fact that it tripled the word count. The question now becomes, “How about situations where there’s a...

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Spectacle: Who We Are

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=simDWTHUZN0&context=C359b4faADOEgsToPDskLPUhmzPBBoUlLpYYRLFBh5] Share this:Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Google+ (Opens in new window)Like this:Like...

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Read Stuff: Huldredrom – Dream of the Hid-Folk

Huldredrom – Dream of the Hid-Folk by Christopher R. Knutson   Review by Eric Staggs   This unique piece of literature came to my attention through pure chance. Since I have found that the best pieces of literature often do arrive via unforeseen channels, I agreed to read and review it.   I’m glad I did. The style of writing at first seemed simple, unsophisticated, but as I progressed, I found I was drawn into the unfamiliarity of the culture, the complexity of Norwegian proper nouns seemed to help heft the weight of their folklore and a new found Christianity.   The story takes place in a picaresque rural village; imagine fens and glens and heathers, buffered on all sides by brooding mountains whose caps are white year round. These snow caps help to anthropomorphize the mountains, giving them an ancient and wise presence. Within these mountains and valleys lives the Hid-Folk. Fey and spritely, these trolls, changelings and their kin live out long and mischievous lives just under the nose of the villagers. The Hid-folk have a habit of stealing human babies and raising them as their own.  The author opens with a classic I-told-you-so moment and the tragic disappearance of a baby.   The plot is at once simple and convoluted – the rules that govern the interaction of mortals and hid-folk are complex and not always logical, but offer a vivid peek into one of Europe’s oldest mythologies. Hid-folk live a semi-parasitic life, stealing lovers and food and cows and whatever else strikes their fancy from mortal villagers, who in turn have developed a whole array of protections against such incursions.   At times almost comical, these cultural clashes between the Hid-Folk and the Villagers carry with them a deeper sub-text. The old ways are under siege by the new Christ-God whose representatives have banned the worship of the Old Norse Gods. Yet, for our characters, the reality remains: Hid-Folk could be any stranger you meet while tending the sheep and elemental spirits might easily burst forth and offer you knowledge or simply wish for company. The only evidence of the truth of Christianity is the agony the cross and tolling bells causes the Hid-Folk.   Vivid imagery and thorough understanding of the culture push this story forward at a comfortable pace. Descriptions of place and time help bring to the reader’s mind concrete imagery and paint each scene in fluid detail – allowing for just enough personalization to make each reader’s experience unique.   Not quite a love story and not quite a fairy-tale laden with moral and metaphor, Huldredrom: Dream of the Hid-Folk­ by Christopher R. Knutson is an entertaining read for all ages...

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Don’t Hide From Your Story!

It wakes you up in the middle of the night. It nudges you on the drive to work. Inside of you, somewhere in the dusty recesses of your mind, an idea is itching to be brought to life. You have a story waiting to be told, a story the world needs to hear. So why are you sitting here reading this post? In the time you’ve been Tweeting, updating Facebook statuses and surfing the internet, you could have written the first paragraph of your next best-selling novel. This is the problem all writers face at one time in their lives. Having the chutzpah to write every day come rain, snow, sunshine or zombie invasion is no small order. When it comes down to it, you’ve got to learn how to psyche yourself up to write. Here are a few ways you can do that: 1.) You will never have the time to write. Make the time. Pencil it in your calendar. Set an alarm. Stick a post-it note to your bathroom mirror. Do whatever it takes to get it done. 2.) It’s okay to write crap. That’s what first drafts are for. Even Stephen King writes first drafts. Say what you need to say and get it out. You can clean it up on the rewrite. 3.) Reward yourself. Writing is hard work. Recognize your accomplishments and use that as motivation to move forward. 4.) One day at a time. You will not write the best American novel in a day. Break down the project into smaller, bite-sized bits that you can achieve a day at a time. Don’t try to swallow an elephant. 5.) Build community. Stay in regular communication with writers and other creatives that motivate and inspire you. Feed off of each other’s energy. Spur each other on to greatness. (But remember, spending five hours chatting and zero time writing does not count. That, my friends, can be filed under procrastination.) Share this:Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Google+ (Opens in new window)Like this:Like...

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Happy Halloween!

Many thanks go out to Mavinga for creating this scary monster for us! Be sure and check out more of his artwork, don’t forget to always be Disturbing! Share this:Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Google+ (Opens in new window)Like this:Like...

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