By: Linda Clare
Editor Linda Clare continues our examination of Fatal Flaw: # 6 Show, Don’t Tell. Writers often succumb to this fatal flaw of fiction writing, explaining and telling and summarizing instead of showing
action as it’s happening. (If
you missed the first post, be sure to read it here.)
In a fictional story, readers imagine that the characters have real lives, just as they themselves do. But the writer who tries to act out a character’s every moment will find readers snoozing sooner rather than later. We’re often told to “show, don’t tell.” So when is showing actually
the less effective choice?
The Usual Routine
Most of the time, a character’s routine is not crucial to the story. Habits such as hearing the alarm clock, shuffling into the kitchen for that first hot mug of coffee or tea, getting dressed, or other mundane activities may be commonplace for all of us but rarely make for exciting prose. Readers will assume your character isn’t running around naked or heading to work without brushing her teeth—unless being unclothed or
unbrushed is important to the story.
By important, I mean that readers won’t understand the story or will be missing important information if any of these routines is not acted out. Most of the time, you can omit entirely any reference to the things we all do every day—from gargling to gassing up the SUV. If you must mention an action and it’s NOT crucial, a simple summary will suffice (for example: she brushed her teeth.)
Remember, you are managing your reader. Whatever you dramatize will appear
to your reader. If it’s unimportant or assumed, use a quick summary—or better
yet, leave it out.
Step by Step
As you manage readers, you’ll be making decisions on not only which parts of the story you’ll dramatize (that is, detail in scenes) but how you’ll dramatize those parts.
. . .
Read the full article HERE!
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