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thanks for the list of suggestions. I like them all. I'll use what pertains to me.
There is a balance and the hard part is finding it.
If there is not some form of conflict on the page, then the reader will not want to turn the page.
A speech can be. He was suggesting put some movement in there. If you watched a movie and all they showed for five minutes was a man's face as he spoke...does that not sound boring? Of course with great talent it would look and sound awesome. But in general the idea would bore many. Or a speaker not using gestures or inflection. That's what a writer has to convey in long blocks of text. Breaking it up isn't ending a speech before it needs to be.
What you say here can be said with all...balance is necessary. But mainly these rules are for those that don't do any of it. If you understand how you're going to go about writing and are fine with it, then the rules seem overpowering, but they're not. They are guidelines that are helpful, just like you are being by suggesting a few are not as great as the others.
I love this list! I find #2 particularly helpful, maybe because few people mention it. Also, torture your protagonist- yes! *wicked grin*
Personally, I like rules. If nothing else, it’s fun breaking them.
This, I think, is the key point. Yes, we need rules and quidelines for how we write, and these rules are very good, especially for those of us who need to improve (or get lucky) in order to get published. Yet, we can't adhere strictly to a rigid set of rules, or there would be no creativity in our creative writing!
Last edited by jtrylch13; 01-05-2011 at 06:25 AM. Reason: Fixing stuff!
Great info, looks like have some editing to do, thanks.
BTW: Must we always use a ‘tag words or lines’ to imply a question? Here’s a rather poor example:
“You can.” His tone and eyes said otherwise.
When a simple ‘?’ will suffice-
Rule #32 ought to be rule #1, in my humble opinion.
This is exactly the type of threads and advice I hoped to find when I joined the site. I'm well aware that I have a lot to learn before it's worth to SYW, but I still need to learn somewhere.
I'm loving all of those who take the time to share information like this.
This is a great list, and I'm going to forward it to a friend of mine with no writing background who's just starting.
But chalk me up as another one querying the example for rule 30. "John drew the knife from its sheath and stabbed Paul with it." On first read through it seems perfectly clear though I couldn't quite put my finger on why.
Then on close analysis... "John drew the knife from it's sheath..." defines it as the knife. "... and stabbed Paul with it." which carries through to the second clause.
It's not that the rule doesn't have some validity, just that this isn't a good example. Better to go with the hoary old "Alright, I'll hold the nail, and when I nod my head you hit it with the hammer."
But it's still a great list advice, especially Rule 32. If the OP is still around, thank-you for posting it.
Quote by Richard Martin:
Here again, to me there's a subtle difference in what's implied. "I just know he's the killer" suggests, for example, that evidence has been presented that the fellow is not the killer, but the speaker/narrator is insisting that he still believes the guy is the killer and is emphatically dismissing the counter-evidence, maybe even trying to convince himself. Somehow the "just" yields that particular meaning.
Last edited by jdm; 05-08-2011 at 09:57 PM.
Love this list! The "show, don't tell" rule is particularly applicable right now as I'm trying to transition from narrative writing to writing for the theatre. Much harder than I anticipated.
Rule #19 cracks me up, especially since I just finished "The Bridges of Madison County". Talk about torturing your characters.
Excellent advice. Though regarding "Use oblique dialogue", you can take it too far. I know I've been annoyed by the odd thing -- mainly radio dramas, for some reason -- where I've been annoyed as a listener by characters not answering questions.
You don't want to annoy your readers/listeners, right? Though it's better than boring them.
I recently ran into the "show and not tell" problem. Luckily, it was pointed out to me and was easy to fix. Sighing and shrugging are problems I need to work on. "sigh" oops!
Found some excellent points in this list. Thanks for posting it.
The worst example I can think of had a rather long note from the editor in the end explaining in detail what the hell it was about - incidentally if I remember correctly they only knew becuse the author has sent them a letter explaining it.
I like a story that makes me think and one that has hidden connections and trends etc but there is a point at which the author is not practicing "show don't tell" but is being too smart for their own good.
Another thing worth mentioning is that "show don't tell" doesn't mean never to summmerize.
Here's an exerpt from "Delicate Edible Birds" by Lauren Groff:
Parnell resten his head on Bern's shoulder until he stopped weeping, until his breath came naturallly again. He told them what he had dreamt: ranks of soldiers, black as beatles, marching in lockstep down the Strand, a child swung by its heels againt a wall so its brains splattered out. London burning. Bombs falling like hailstones on the Houses of Parliment.I'd much rather read that summery of his dreams than be forced to read through an entire scene depicting the dreams. You could argue that if the dreams can't be shown they are unnecessary but I don't think the impact would have been the same if the author had just hinted at the fact that the character had nightmares.
This is not to say that "Show don't tell" is not one of my most valued mantras, I just wanted to stress that summery has its place also.
I suppose setting fire to the tree was a bit OTT.
*wanders off to search for a fire extinguisher and some rocks*
I found your tips very useful and informative. I'm rather fond of number 20! Torture your protagonist, fantastic advice that I shall remember!!
The first advice about pleonasms can be confusing to the reader and misleading, as this is not always the case. I believe tat sometimes such words should be inserted in order to provide a better feel of the atmosphere/story, or perhaps lengthen the sequence in accordance with the desired speed in which the reader must follow.
p.s. Is this writing in bold or something? No idea, as I rarely use linux, as I do now...
P.P.S. If you found me confusing, by any chance, this is perfectly normal. Even I sometimes find myself confusing.
If you are a writer with good instincts, there is a danger in reading "how to" books. I've read about 35. When you read something purporting to improve writing, there is a tendency to run back to a work in progress and start through it with a fine-tooth-comb. Then when you read the next "how to" book, and discover something new, back you go and re-edit. There comes a time when you have to trust yourself and not rely on writing gurus, who seem to specialize in writing books on writing, but little else.
I like Elizabeth George's quote in her book "Write Away." "If there's one rule about writing, it's that there are no rules. Anytime someone tells me about a rule, I set out immediately to break it."
The Escape Velocity Magazine link is broken... just an fyi. The Newsvine link works fine. It looks like it may be an internal issue.
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I'm just getting ready to edit. This is just the sort of reminder I was looking for. Thanks!
Oh lawd.....my toes are purple.... I've got editing to do. I do not think that my poetry writing hiatus was a good thing.
Glad I found this list; most of it is sound advice, though I get rule fatigue reading a list that long and that prescriptive.
I'd question no. 6 though. I don't think you should have a rule about the length of a speech, or break it up with movement - after all, what if the character is sitting down, or in bed, or staring out the window? We aren't constantly moving (unless we are my two little boys). To me, that is the same as having a rule for the length of a paragraph (paragraphs are as long as they need to be).
A lengthy speech isn't boring a long as the character is saying something interesting.
No.8 irks me slightly. It it's going to be a rule then it should be, 'sometimes show; sometimes tell.' If you did nothing but show you'd end up with a 700 000 word novel probably consisting of endless pages of exhausting dialogue and utter tedium. Telling is a vital skill, I think, and it seems to be severely underrated. Telling saves many needless words and keeps the story ticking over at a nice pace.
What a great post! So helpful!