3 Bits of Advice for NaNoWriMo 2012 Kickoff

November 2, 2012

In celebration of the beginning of NaNoWriMo I’ve copied over, and revised, three NaNo posts of writing advice. I complied these in time for the kick off of this year’s NaNoWriMo. These come from three different Threads, probably in three different Forums, even.

Puppy winking at you, "You're Awesome!"

 

 

They may help a few of you. Take what you can use and leave the rest. Advice is never a one-size fits all. I write Literary Fiction, and these posts show that leaning. Nevertheless, trying to write well is trying to write well. Here we go…

 about “Conflict?”

In your work, conflict can be built for your characters from any of these three sources:

Conflict with Self – shown by doubts, grandiose ideas that fail, denial, no having a clue what you want (inertia), jealousy.

Conflict with Society – shown by life’s circumstances gone wrong, societal ills you want to explore, Staged bad-guys: Big Brother, corporations, secret cabals, governments.

Conflict with Other Characters – shown by a standard nemesis, antagonists, evil step-parents, Bad uncles, horrible neighbor.

Or by a standard person of desire: someone who the main character wants and can’t get. Or wants and gets, with disappointing results.

about “Showing not Telling?”

With showing, we the reader can see something and react to it. With telling we have that reaction given to us in the writers description (at times over-description).
Overwriting is still overwriting, whether you do it in the service of telling or showing.

With telling we’re fed what the writer wants us to feel, rather than feeling what reactions come to us from our experiencing the writing.

Seeing is believing.

Showing lets a reader see things; rather than having those things told to them by the writer.
“He was mean” tells us he was mean, but hasn’t shown us him being mean yet.
“He was mean” is also an abstract, because (as someone said earlier) there are a lot of ways to be mean. That’s where telling can fall into the abstract: some abstract, telling, words have different connotations to different folks.

Whereas, showing gives the reader something concrete. Showing gives us a visual, or physical, or visceral way in which ‘He was mean’ can be seen in front of our eyes.

A famous quote about this is:
“Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” ~ Anton Chekhov.

If you want to check if you are telling or showing ask if your verbs are action verbs or state-of-being verbs. (was is, am, had, were). Telling can rely too much on those state-of-being verbs: The moon is shining. He was mean.

Great showing allows even intimate objects to be associated with actions.
“The Mississippi delta shone like a national guitar.”- Paul Simon
“Around her fingers bubbles from the submerged cookie finally stopped rising; like a kidnapping gone horribly wrong.”
 – e.j. runyon

In both those cases there wasn’t a lot of adjectives or adverbs (overwriting) but there was showing. In your work, if you try to show more often than you tell, you may be employing way more than description:
Yes, there is Narration that shows, but try for getting in some Dialogue that does, or  Actions or Description of characters & always try for describing the Settings that manages showing over telling; in ways that doesn’t over explain.

The best is when you can bring all these into your scene building– bringing all of these other things together in your story.

All which happens throughout the entire work at various or overlapping times.
Obviously, the goal is the better writing throughout– which manages to “show” all through the book in the ways listed– in non-over-writing ways – to bring in, as someone called it–that “complex, subtly shaped thought-process using language.”

about “How do I exactly allow my audience to make up their own minds about a Main Characters’ strong emotional situation?”

The best way to show Cinderella’s harsh life situation isn’t having Cinderella, or her narrator tell the reader in explaining or narrative that “this girl’s life is hell, and her step-mom and step-sisters do such awful things to her on purpose all the time, like when….”

But rather, give is a scene where Cinda’s treated like dirt, but there are no “judgment” adjectives or adverbs being used to tell us how awful the moment is.

Her horrible sister Snivella, again pushed her bunion-y foot in Cinderella’s path, in her intolerable way, laughing that stupid and cruel laugh of hers, so that again, the tea biscuits few in all directions….
vs.
Her sister Snivella, again pushed her foot in Cinderella’s path, in her usual way, laughing that laugh of hers, so that again, the tea biscuits few in all directions….

This is the difference with your writing: You have the option of letting the reader get the message on their own, or you telling them right up front what they are to think and feel about it all.

Hope this Helps.

E.J.

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