Friday, April 29, 2011

Show and Tell - Not for Kindergartners

No, this show and tell is for writers, and it's not quite show AND tell, but show DON'T tell.

I found a wonderful FB fan page today called The Creative Penn, and by coincidence, she too talked about Showing vs Telling in her latest note, calling it POV intrusion, which I suppose, it is. Annette Lyon, I discovered, is also a best selling author as well as an editor. Quite a find, and as such, she is worth keeping an eye on and seeing if we can learn a thing or two. I'm always trying to keep an eye pealed for something new to learn.

Showing rather then telling is like reading a cartoon without any of the text explaining what's going on in the picture. Dialogue is seldom enough, though sometimes it can help.

Lord Percival had a great time while out hawking. He caught three rabbits and a sparrow. He was furious about the sparrow. He punished his squire for the pointless kill.

What did you think about that? Kind of distant, wasn't it. You could easily close the magazine and forget the scene. It wasn't all that interesting after all.

Try this:
Lord Percival watched enthralled as his hawk dived after it's fourth kill. When it turned out to be nothing but a sparrow, he was enraged. In a frothing fury, he turned on his squire, who cowered away in fear. The riding crop landed a full dozen times, pounding the squire all the way to the ground before stopping. The lord was spent. Breathing hard, he said, "Get my bird. The hunt is spoiled." And when the squire cowered a moment longer, Lord Percival raised his hand to strike again. The squire scurried to do his master's bidding.

What do you think of that scene? A bit more gripping. Not bad for a spur-of-the-moment example.

You need to get under your character's skin, feel his or her deepest emotions, experience his or her agonies and elations. You need to walk in his shoes, wear his coat, comb his hair, feel the itch between his shoulders.

There's another difference between the two examples I gave above - can you find it? There's action - motion - movement. It is vital to the life of your story that action of some sort is constant. Someone or something is always in motion. Motion attracts the attention of any spectator, even that of a reader. If no one is moving, boredom sets in quickly, even if the dialogue is good.

Have you ever watched someone talk? Always there is something moving. A girl might clasp her hands and sway a bit, flirting, fluttering her eyes and smiling. A boy might scuff the ground, embarrassed about the attention. He might shove his hands in his pockets and push his shoulders up by straightening his elbows. I'm sure you've heard or seen someone who's hands are constantly in motion; it's common, don't be afraid to use such things. And most importantly, don't forget to keep using it once you've introduced it.

If Bob is constantly tugging at his beard, make sure he keeps tugging at it, even after he shaves - habits are hard to break.

If Jane chews her nails, she won't suddenly have long nails in the next chapter.

If you need to, it's not a bad idea to keep a list of your characters and their various details. I keep one - it also helps me remember how I spelled their names, and it helps make sure I don't name my characters too similarly. I recently read a book where the only difference between the name of the female secondary character and the main character's mother was a single letter. I finally looked the names up on line and discovered that the single letter difference affected the pronouncement of the name, but while reading, I didn't know that, and since both names were in rather frequent use, it was confusing and distracting trying to watch for the spelling in order to tell who was talking about which character. But I digress.

Showing vs Telling: What pointers can you give?

Friday, April 22, 2011

Things About Me

I was visiting blogs yesterday and I found this rather funny one - Bunker Bitches - They appear to be kinda new to the blogosphere, why don't you all take a moment and stop by for a visit.

Also there I saw this rather intriguing list of questions to answer. There is was in a nifty little picture, but pictures really give me fits. Maybe someday I'll figure them out, but that's another subject altogether.

The post that accompanied the list of questions made it look like each question should be answered one at a time but there were no rules posted so I'm going to attempt to answer all of them all at once here. Those of you who wish may copy the questions and answer them on your own blogs. Have fun with them. I will.

Here goes:

10 Secrets
I don't like to do housework
I am very selfish
I am very honest
I don't believe in lies
I may be too logical
I may be the only person I know who can keep a secret
I have no fear of telling someone what they need to know
I am very organized
I am very analytical
I am a people watcher

9 Loves
I love my husband
I love my two boys
I love my grandson
I love my two daughter-in-laws
I love my life-style
I love where I live
I love this new writing obsession I have discovered

8 Fears
I fear crossing questionable ice
I fear encountering a bear along the trail
I fear getting hurt out here
I fear machines (in a way)
I fear being unable to write any more, like if the world ended and I couldn't use my computer anymore because we ran out of gas.
I fear getting some incurable illness
I fear someone will someday make it impossible for me to live the life I love
All things considered, I really have very few outright fears.

7 Wants
I want my books to become popular
I want to be able to support myself on their sales
I want to lose about 50 pounds
I want to have a larger house
I want my own office
I want not to have to go to work
I want something descent on TV again

6 Places
Wray, Colorado - where I was born
Moorhead, Minnesota - where I went to collage
Here - where I live now (out in the middle of nowhere has no town name)
Eckley, Colorado - where my parents are buried
Eagle River, Alaska - where my oldest son lives
Phoenix, Arizona - where my youngest son live (or close to there anyway)

5 Foods
Vanilla ice cream
A good, old fashioned, nice, fat, steak
Caesar Salad
Home made bread

4 Books
Hatrack River by Orson Scott Card
Lord of the Rings by JR Tolkien
I have quite a collection of books about King Arthur but I don't remember who all wrote them.
Dune by Frank Herbert

3 Films
Lord of the Rings (all three of them)
G I Jane

2 Songs
The Highwayman by Loreena McKinnett
Cry Me a River by Justin Timberlake

1 Picture (of me)
That one is easy, there's a new picture of me, more than one even, over on the right. There, now I don't have to try to wrestle with a picture here. haha

Friday, April 15, 2011

A Mousetrap of the Writerly Variety

Dawn Sievers has been a Facebook friend of mine for some times now. She moderates an awesome group, Authentic Bloggers, as well. But though I knew she was very involved with writing, I really didn't know much about her, so I invited her to write something up. This way, I can get to know her a little better, and you do too. Kudos to Dawn for all her accomplishments.

For those who have been blogging for a while, you're probably familiar with the concept of guest posting. That's when another blogger invites you to write a blog article that will be featured on their blog. It gives you more exposure to a completely different demographic (depending on the focus of that other blog); you meet new people and if you're lucky, people will enjoy your guest post enough to investigate your blog and you'll grow your readership.

I don't do a lot of guest blogging, and the main reason is a simple one - lack of time. I am a freelance writer, editor and blogger, and also a social media management consultant. The fact that writing is both my avocation and my vocation means that I write a good 90% of the business week for myself and my blog at Healing Morning, and for clients. Whatever time is left over, I'm attending networking functions and meeting new people in order to source new contracts. Blogging on a personal level tends to get shifted to the side burner as a result. If you're a blogger, then you know one of the Cardinal Rules of Blogging is reciprocation. Given that I stay so busy, it isn't often that I have time for the guest blogging process. Occasionally, a blogging friend will invite me to do a guest post, and I do my best to accept the offer if it fits the general tone and theme of what I do at Healing Morning.

Anna L. Walls, of Anna's Obsession blog, recently asked me to do a guest post. So, here I am, ruminating on writerly things. I've written my whole life, and began to work in a freelance aspect with writing and editing about 18 - 20 years ago. I've had endless ups and downs, hot moments and long dry spells, as I worked to create a niche for myself. Recently, within the past 2-3 years, social media has afforded me an ancillary option to add to my bag of tricks as a writer, and as a result, my business is growing and thriving.

What the heck is a social media manager or consultant? It's someone like me who has strong writing and editing skills, who is also social media savvy and capable of taking on the social media management needs for various clients. This can translate to ghost writing blogs, to ghost writing newspaper articles, to doing research, to writing all manner of reports, to creating ad copy, to technical writing, and finally, to writing and scheduling daily/weekly social media wall posts for clients who are too busy to do it for themselves.

This sounds easy, yes? Like something you could dive into without a second thought and have immediate, over the top success. I wish that were true! The reality is that although social media is, indeed, increasing on an exponential manner on a worldwide basis, most business owners are still a bit vague about how social media can benefit their profit margin. Marketing is everything to every business, and many business owners haven't quite warmed up to the concept that social media is the strongest marketing tool available these days. At least this is true of the area where I'm located - the southeastern region is historically a bit slower to embrace new marketing concepts and trends. As a result, a great deal of my own marketing of these services is being an educator and teaching people about the value of social media.

I'm happy to say that there is increasing awareness and appreciation for social media consulting in my geographical location. I'm meeting more and more business owners who are waking up to the fact that they're overlooking a very hot, not to mention FREE, marketing tool. I am hopeful that within the next 6 months, I'll have enough business in my pipeline that I'll have to hire additional help. I'm well on the way to making that dream a reality, so in my own small part of the world, I am seeing a slight improvement in the economy. In addition to that slight economical improvement, I recognize that I've done a lot of the groundwork and created that ideal valuable niche for myself. Most networking group meetings I attend, I find that I am the unique person in attendance, offering a service that no one else does in my local area. We all recognize the logic behind coming up with that next fresh, unique idea, and for me, freelance writing, editing, blogging and social media consulting is proving to be my version of the "better mousetrap". My mousetrap is of the writerly variety.

I am also another blogger who has aspirations and intentions of becoming a published author in both fiction and non-fiction genres. While I work to make that dream a reality, the freelance writing side of things is what pays the bills for me. I feel that I am fortunate to be one of those people who is being paid to do what I love. I also am happy that I can see strong signs of this foundation leading to bigger and better experiences. My mousetrap of the writerly variety is proving to be a pretty handy and clever creation.

*Disclaimer: No mice were harmed in the writing of this article.*

Friday, April 8, 2011

March Writing Contest Winning Entry, Ambitious Writers, Goodreads

Amani wins the writing contest for March with this entry:

Title: The Totally Legitimate Complete Guide to Surviving a Zombie Apocalypse
Genre: Humour
Word Count: 1425
Summary: A guide to surviving a zomie-ridden world.

Hello there! Have you found yourself in a situation in which you are being viciously murdered by zombies who seemed to appear out of thin air without any explanation as to why they exist and how they got here? Are you currently running away or hiding from a murderous, flesh eating zombie? Are you silently cursing Hollywood for lying to you about the speed of zombies? Or maybe you'd just like to be prepared in case of a sudden zombie attack? Well, have no fear! With this totally legitimate guide on how to survive these types of situations, you'll be sure to see another post-apocalyptic day!

Chapter One: Your Zombie

Knowing your zombie all the more will help you in defeating them later on in the long run! In this first chapter, we will discuss the two different types of zombies. By knowing their strengths and weaknesses, you'll be able to use that knowledge against them! Unless you're an idiot. Or the zombie somehow has an IQ of 200+. Then you're screwed. But if not, then read on while you still aren't dead!

Zombie A: The Surprisingly Fast How-Dare-You-Lie-To-Me-Hollywood Zombie aka Fresco

Fresco is the type of zombie where, were you the guy who ate one too many cookies at your best buddy Chris's fetish party, you'd be dead before you managed to lift your poor leg. Fresco is the fast, usually quicker than humans, zombie who has so much stamina that he could chase you for hours without feeling the need to rest, pee, or masturbate. However, this is met by a small yet very deadly weakness: stupidity.

While stupidity may seem like something inconsequential when you're as fast as a car, it can hinder you greatly if you're opponent is smart. Hell, even getting straight F's on your report card counts as smart compared to these zombies!

So, dear victim, if you are being outrun by Fresco, simply outsmart him!

How do you do that, you might ask?

Well, if you need specifics, you just might be the sole person who's dumber than a Fresco. But, nevertheless, since we need to fill these pages, we shall give you a few scenarios, and hopefully you'll be able to create your own amazing plan by ripping off of ours!

Assuming that you are near a city and not somewhere deserted, like Pittsburg, you are surrounded by either a) buildings, or b) some sort of park. These surroundings are your very lifeline.

Scenario 1: The 7/11

You've been running for so long... You're out of breath, and you're sweaty in places you didn't even know existed. You're muscles ache, and possibly even feel like delicious, grindy-bony jello.You don't know if you can take it any longer; you need to stop and rest, or else you might collapse. But there's that damn Fresco right behind you, snapping at your heels with it's sharp, decayed teeth!

So what do you do?

Keep on running like yo mamma is chasing you with belt made out of sharp knives? Hell no! You immediately run to the nearest building - in this case, a 7/11.

Quickly, run, run inside!

Are you in? Yes? Good. Now, run to the counter and jump over it to the other side! Great! By jumping over the counter, you've effectively put an obstacle before you and the Fresco, which will be wondering what in hell's name is that damn infernal contraption blocking him from you. Now you, sir, are safe! Not only have you managed to fool the zombie, but you've got free junk food! Huzzah!

Zombie: 0, Victim: 1

Scenario 2: The Library

It's quiet... Perhaps too quiet... But then again, you are in a library so... Er, anyways: It's really damn quiet. You managed earlier to run away from that damn Fresco, despite how fast it is. Maybe you're an Olympic runner, or maybe you outsmarted it, then ran away before your ass became sweet zombie dinner. Either way, you managed to elude the zombie, and ran into the nearest building: the library.

Safe! Goal! Home base! Whatever the fuck ya want to call it; either way you're safe! I mean, it's the library. If humans dread it, it's practically a zombie repellent, right?


*Fun fact: Zombies aren't afraid of libraries.

So, poor you has let your guard down, thinking you were safe, no? Well, no worries! If the Fresco manages to find you, or if you have found a Fresco lurking in between the bookshelves, you can save yourself by simply grabbing hold of the nearest book, opening it up, and using it to hide your face! By doing so, the Fresco will either a) think you've disappeared and go looking for another meal, or b) stare at you for a few minutes, expecting you to come back, then freak out and run away screaming when it realizes that you're not coming back.

Now, aren't you glad that people have no lives, so they can write those boring, heavy novels?

So, what do you do now?

Run the fuck away! Yes! Keep running! GO! (Presumably not in the direction that Fresco went, because that would be defeating the purpose.)

... Or you could stay at the library, where you have some entertainment and easy access to cloaking devices.


Fine. Run then, bitch!

Zombie -1 (yes, they'll be receiving negative points every time they fail epicly), Victim: 2.

Scenario 3: The Tree

You find yourself in the middle of a park. A park, with an open, wide space, except for a few trees and maybe some dead bodies. Usually you'd be freaking out about the bodies, but after nearly getting attacked by numerous zombies more times than you'd like to count, dead bodies are like a sidewalk. You see them everywhere, step on them, and sometimes even trip over them (unquestionably crying and screaming in anger and fear after realizing that that icky dead body just touched you, and you ran out of Germ-X!!!)

Anyways, you're walking quietly, trying not to attract attention to yourself. Even though you're out in the open, maybe you'll be avoided if you're fairly quiet...

But then, right in the middle of the park, you spot a zombie, feasting on a corpse only a few yards away from you! For a moment, you contemplate how hot that body is, in comparison to the ones you've been seeing lately, then you come to your senses.

You want to run away so badly, but realize that running will bring attention to yourself. So, as quietly as you've ever attempted, you turn back around slowly and walk small, baby steps. As you're walking, you're silently laughing, glad for your luck, and you're mad sneaking-past-zombies skillz.

But then, the unthinkable happens: you fart!

Oh no, what have you done?!?!?! Not only has the sound gotten the attention of that damn Fresco, but so has the smell (which the Fresco will find kinky; sadly this won't help you, as it'll give the Fresco more incentive to chase you).

So what do you do?

Cry and pray to God for a bottle of anti-zombie apples and cinnamon body spray to fall out of the sky?

Not a chance!

You run to the nearest tree!! Go, run!!! As fast as your blistered feet can take you!!

BUT WAIT!!! Don't climb that tree, no!! The Fresco will climb up right after you, and either one of you will fall, or get scraped on the arms by the trees!!

So what the fuck do you want me to do?

Quickly, use your mega-muscles to break off a branch! Or, if you've got scrawny arms, use them to break off a smaller branch!

But what if I don't have any arms?

Er... Sucks to be you?

Anyways, don't do anything with that branch just yet! You must wait for the zombie to come within at least ten feet of you! And please, try not to pee your pants while waiting. It usually makes matters more uncomfortable for everyone, even the Fresco. I mean, seriously, who wants to eat a dirty body?

So, just wait until the Fresco is near, then wave the stick around!

Yes, just like that!

Have you got it's attention? Yes? Good! Now, throw the branch as hard as you can, away from you!

The Fresco will become so distracted it'll follow after the branch, and obsess over it for a few minutes before realizing that it's nothing special and that you've disappeared!

We assume that you're going to go back to that library now, huh? We thought so...

Zombie: -2, Victim: 3

Friday, April 1, 2011

Point of View - Where are you looking

Next time you watch a show or a movie on television, consider what the camera sees. Consider that view your POV (Point of View). There are many different ways to use POV in your story, or maybe I should say, there are different methods of writing and POV is vital to all of them.

Your 'camera' is your eyes, ears and mind. Of course you should also try to work in touch, taste and smell wherever possible. All of your readers are avidly watching your program, plugged into your movie and waiting for your next move.

Like film makers, you will ride around on the shoulder of one or another of your main characters. You can follow very close and know only what your character can know, or you can take a more distant stance and know what most everyone knows. The latter is probably the most common, but really you need to be careful, you don't want to clutter up the page with everyone's thoughts and feelings - a comment or two is more than enough. You want to keep your viewer's attention on your main character(s).

For those of you who go all out with your list of characters (like me), keeping focus centered on your main character is paramount. If you have more than one main character, juggling them all may get a little dicey. I prefer a single main and perhaps a handful of secondarys. Not that I know much about running an office, but it's not unlike an executive with a handful of secretaries. We get to know this secondary group of individuals, but I never really follow any of them. They are merely in the inner orbit around my main. And as we all know, life is cluttered with characters so don't be afraid to do the same in your book.

For those of you who have more than one main character, more than one 'executive', in your story, keeping your viewers up to date on all of them can be quite a juggling act indeed. You never want your reader to forget about any of your mains. One way of doing this is to make a list of the main characters you want to keep track of. For instance, let's say the backdrop of your story is a global war and there is the Middle East faction, the African faction, the European faction and the American faction. Did I miss someone? I didn't mean to, but you get the idea. In each faction you have a main to follow, they may or may not know of each other, but that isn't the issue. What you DON'T want to do is follow one for three chapters, another for two, and another for like six chapters, mention yet another one in one short chapter and then go back to dwell on the previous one. You should try to give equal time to each of your main characters, and enough time for us to get to know them rather well.

I haven't tackled something like this, but I've read several samples. One being 'The Wheel of Time Compendium'. This is an awesome series of books - I believe there are twelve of them now - and it follows a handful of friends through several years as they strive to save the world from the evil lord of the underworld. This series starts out with a group of friends who grew up together, but all too soon these friends go their own way for one reason or another in their effort to accomplish the same goal. Following them is like following the threads of a braid as some go this way and back while others go that way and back. Some interact at one point and others interact at other points.

Robert Jordon did a fantastic job with his characters. They were each full of life and very different from the other. As Robert takes them each on their own journey through the books, you are sorely tempted to stay with only one, but if you did that you would miss out on what the others were doing. Everyone I've talked to about it has told me that they had a favorite character. I think the thing Robert did that made this epic story work so well was he never allowed any of us to forget who any of his characters were. His chapters were enormous and his descriptions were tremendously detailed but his world lived. There were worries and plans and communications, successful or failed, to keep us fully involved with each of his main characters. This is something you need to try to imitate though I wouldn't advise such an epic undertaking the first time around.

If you're going to have more than one main character, you need to keep us up to date with all of them. In Robert Jordon's books he had a healthy dollop of magic and the initial attachment and loyalty of that friendship to build on. Without that, you need to devise some other way to keep us involved, and remember we will be looking for some connection from the very beginning, so don't keep us waiting too long.

Giving each player equal time in your book is vital, also giving us a fully rounded and involving character helps to make them our best friend or worst enemy as the case may be. Like I said before, I wouldn't recommend such a convoluted epic adventure for your first try. But don't wait until you're on your death bed either. I'm sure many of Robert Jordon's readers would like to strangle his ghost for not finishing the story.

POV allows us to get involved. With POV, especially close POV, we can use all five senses to familiarize the reader with your main character. There is rocking emotions, wrenching tears, explosive temper tantrums, or stolid determination. The more you can get your reader to like or hate your character, the less likely they will forget who he or she is later in the book. Myself, I prefer a single main. One character can get into plenty of trouble, juggling half a dozen of them, though a joy to read if well done, makes for a very long book.

So, allow the camera of your pen to see the movie of your story. Hear the cries of anguish, smell the baking bread, taste the blood of the enemy, touch her satiny skin, and watch the moon rise. Let it all be there. It's your point of view. Don't be afraid to share it.