>> Tuesday, May 27, 2008
You've all heard it. "Show don't tell."
Most of the time it's not bad advice. But I think it can often be misleading, frustrating to hear, and completely unhelpful in some cases. Perhaps it happens most with writers who are experienced and already do show more than they tell; so it's natural to encourage other people to do it.
But did you remember to SHOW them how to "show" when offering that advice?
You can quote these nifty little phrases as much as you want; but keep in mind, especially if helping out someone newer to writing, that the person you're helping may not know how to do it.
I know when I first started writing (seriously) and people would tell me this, I'd often spend long, frustrating hours attempting to understand how to accomplish this elusive "showing" I heard was so important.
If you TELL someone to "show more, don't tell so much" then you owe it to them to SHOW them an example of what you mean, and how they can accomplish it.
It's like anything else. If you offer someone advice on active voice, give them an example of what you mean, point out how to accomplish it, and be specific where they have passive voice. It takes more time, yeah, and it requires you to think. ;) But I know how frustrating it is to be given advice and expected to follow it when I don't know how, when I've not been shown.
This holds true even when you're critiquing more experienced writers. I know sometimes it can be annoying (when you're on the receiving end of a critique) to be told something you already know, especially if the tone is condescending. But I think it's possible, with a little effort, to make your point, give an example, and not sound condescending no matter if you're critiquing a new writer or an experienced writer.
So, back to my point about show and tell. ;) (See, I'll show you what I mean. Bwha ha ha ha! Am I sneaky or what?)
I used this example for someone on Critique Circle awhile back. It has zombies, so if you don't like zombies, skip the examples. %-)
Jack grabbed the chainsaw and started chopping up zombies.
Now, this to me feels a bit tell-y and bland. If I read this, I would ask the author to show me more--let me be there and experiencing the zombie slaughter-fest with Jack.
So I might explain my point ("…for the action in this section, I think it would work better if you showed Jack killing (re-killing?) the zombies, like this...") and then give an example.
Jack raced for the tool shed. Behind him, the thud-thud of zombie footsteps drew nearer. He was almost there.
A rotting arm snared his jacket. Damn it! Jack twisted and shrugged out of his windbreaker. Too close. God, where had all these undead bastards come from? The full moon? His breath fogged his glasses. The shed was three steps away.
Jack stumbled over the cement flagstone and crashed into the siding. He fumbled with the paddle lock. It was never closed. Please, he thought, don't let Jane have locked it this time.
The stench of formaldehyde and rotting meat and bad breath made him gag. He wrenched the paddle lock off and heaved the door open. The shed was dark. No shit, he told himself, it's midnight. He jumped inside. It smelled like gasoline and dried grass. Where was it? Dad always kept the chainsaw primed.
Jack fumbled around. A rake tipped over and batted him in the head. He yelped and swung out at it. His glasses skewed on his face. His knee cracked into the plastic case. The chainsaw.
A fingernail snapped off as he pried at the latches. His hands shook.
The streetlight was blocked out as a animated corpse blundered to the threshold of the shed. Jack pulled the chainsaw out and revved it.
Jack screamed and swung around. The chainsaw blade ripped through sagging, worm-ridden flesh and the zombie's head toppled off its neck.
"Die, you bastards!" Jack yelled. He jumped out of the shed and swung the chainsaw. A hand went sailing. He cut down another zombie as they started to surround him.
Better, would you agree? (You don't have to. Honest. *hides the machete behind her back*)
Oh, I'm not always THAT detailed and specific or writing out whole scenes for someone (though, ahem, I have been known to do so). You don't have to re-write it for someone, or go on that long.
But the point remains; if you're going to tell someone not to tell, show them how to do it. Oh, and watch out for the zombies in the shadows.
>> Thursday, May 22, 2008
Yes, I've been bad. Haven't blogged seriously in awhile. I'd set myself on fire for it, but you know, I'm fireproof. ;) I watched the new trailer for Hellboy II: The Golden Army too many times for a sane person to count. O:)
I'm impatiently waiting for my TMNT: Ninja Tribunal DVDs to arrive. Blasted stores didn't have any copies in stock when I looked on Tuesday. And then the bookstore didn't have the BOOK I wanted, either, and then the net didn't work... grr. (Seriously. Is it THAT much to ask that two items I really want be in stock in nearby stores on the day I go into town? Is it?)
I've been working on short stories. Finished a couple. Sent out a couple. I'd have more thoughts on the whole process, along with something possibly relevant and enlightening, but my brain is hading towards the "permanently mush" side of the scale.
Food would be good. So would sleep. Yeah.
So, in conclusion, when I can think straight, I'll try harder to come back and think of an intelligent, ranty, relevant (sorta) blog post.
>> Friday, May 16, 2008
Hah. I like this guy. B-)
E. R. Ellsworth has an article on the site called "The Prophecy Spoke of This Post" which is quite worth checking out. The comment on Star Wars is hilarious. :P
So now I'm in a ranting mood again... shall perhaps do something to fix that (that is, RANT) a bit later.
>> Saturday, May 10, 2008
David has made his short story, "The men who stole the voice of God" available to read for free. So go read.
This is one of my favorites of his; and this is an excellent example of how omni-POV can work well. B-)
Pirates, living skeletons, a twisted tale... yup, all here. Have fun!
Awhile back, I'd asked my cyber twin David what he likes in Urban Fantasy and why. Over at his website, Once upon a mellow noon, he's got an article up about Why do I like urban fantasy?
This, of course, has prompted me to actually think about what I like in UF (or fantasy in general and any other genre I read) and why. I'm still working on unearthing the dark, twisty thoughts and nailing them on paper (cyber paper, anyway). ;)
So I'll extend the question to you: what do you like about your favorite genre(s) and WHY?
The gauntlet has been thrown. %-)
I stumbled on this to much evil chuckling. %-)
On it are serialized novels by David Wellington, including his zombie novel trilogy: Monster Island, Monster Nation, and Monster Planet.
The reason I'm so excited is that I've seen these in Borders and have been meaning to check them out. And lo and behold, they're online. Mwhahaha! I'm about to start the first one. I really like being able to preview books in this way (though of course I completely understand why it's not all that common), and if I like one, I'm all for buying a copy in paperback to support the author.
Just thought I'd share.
>> Friday, May 9, 2008
Okay, my day is made. I have gotten my clawed hands on a copy of Skulduggery Pleasant: Playing With Fire by Derek Landy today. I'm so excited it's not funny. B-) I adore this series... even though it's just two books so far. (And heck, I've only read the first one.)
I'll give you a review of them both next week. In the meantime, if you need a hilarious, fast-paced, dark-edged and pure shiny awesome novel to read, the first book, Skulduggery Pleasant: Meet Skulduggery is available in paperback.
In it is a real treat: Mr. Landy's short story "The Lost Art of World Domination". It. Is. HYSTERICAL. B-) (I was getting odd looks at the bookstore. Who is the maniac laughing uproariously in the corner?)
If you're looking for me I'll be curled up on the couch with my book and ignoring the world. Ciao!
>> Wednesday, May 7, 2008
There's a picture of the Baby Balrog on the Toasted Scimitar, so I figured I'd share Baby Zaynn as well... (given I'm slacking on actually, you know, sending this to the people I said I would O:))
(Zaynn is a velociraptor shapeshifter from one of my novels. The Dreaded One has adopted him.)
Awww... ain't babies just adorable? O:)
~Merc, who for all appearances really IS evil and torments grown-up Zaynn mercilessly to balance out drawing such a picture...
>> Tuesday, May 6, 2008
Hey, don't know if you guys have seen this, but over on Miss Snark's First Victim blog, there's a "Are you hooked?" session about to start.
Basically, you submit a blurb about your book and people will comment on whether it works for them or not. Check it out! (You have until Thursday morning--May 8th)