Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Show Me a Story, Don’t Tell Me, a Much More Technical Approach

As Promised last time, today I am actually going to give writing advice, (yes batten down the hatches and close those blinkers). A newbie giving advice is not exactly a popular idea, but who better to guide the next latest release than the current, right? I’m intending to talk you through the whole process of how to write a story anyone interested in your genre would go wild to read, that is, one aspect that will aid you in this purpose.
So, let’s get theoretical, which makes more sense than starting with practical examples. A story, as with life is made up of a series of actions, you are born, you live, and you one day in the distant future die; three transitive acts in succession. Another example, meeting someone for the first time. You get to know each other by sharing a few facts, this would be the ‘tell’; but if you start ‘telling’ everything straight away, they are going to be put off you pretty quickly as I have learned.
So, rather than saying; I’m Joseph, I practice martial arts, I write and I have a rather avid fear of riding horses; I will spend time with people, let them watch me practice, show them my uniform, show them my books (and watch them scoff) and if I’m adventurous try to get on a horse let them see me unseated for the umpteenth time. The whole point of these examples is, telling someone these things tells them something, letting them see it can be done with words.
Two tips in avoiding ‘the tell’: Avoid the verb ‘to be’ guaranteed that 90% of the instances of ‘I am’ he/she is’ etc. are instances of telling the situation.
Instead I offer this comparison – ‘He was angry’, ‘His brow furrows as a dark look crossed his face’ a purple vein began to throb on his forehead. I knew I had said the wrong thing’. Note I have used the taboo verb in this sentence, but only as a re-affirmation of the situation, emphasis only.
Second tip for the day: adverbs are not your friend. This may seem woefully vague but I believe it was Stephen King who wrote this before me that they are just clutter to your word count: ‘He ran quickly’ could be written more dynamically as, ‘his feet became a blur as he launched himself down the path’. Simple but I know which I would prefer to read.
Technically these two rules, are a good starting point for anyone who is moving up from nowhere to somewhere should start with, all in the aim of taking the reader by the hand and letting them delicately tread into the world you have created.
Until next time, practice, experience and procrastinate, as writing needs a little of all three.

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