The Value of SHOWmanship in Fiction

 

Recently, I’ve heard a few editors comment that they don’t worry about showing things in fiction, that they think editors and writers get too caught up showing when it’s really not all that important. Telling is okay. It’s just as strong and effective as showing.

I beg to differ.

Consider this from Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, a stellar book by Renni Browne and Dave King:

“Narrative summary no longer engages readers the way it once did. Since engagement is exactly what a fiction writer wants to accomplish, you’re well advised to rely heavily on immediate scenes to put your story across. You want to draw your readers into the world you’ve created, make them feel a part of it, make them forget where they are. And you can’t do this effectively if you tell your readers about your world secondhand. You have to take them there.”

Well put. When you tell a story—relate the information in narrative summary—you don’t engage readers. But when you show…readers are captured, captivated, and drawn in. They have the vicarious, sensory experience your characters have–and they care about what’s happening. And in the caring, readers discover, learn, and are changed.

Therein lies the power of fiction.

I was reminded of this just last week, as I worked with a delightful writer acting as her writing coach. This author is crafting a collection of novelized stories about women in the Bible. She hopes to show contemporary women what they have to learn from these women “of old,” and to give them new eyes to see familiar stories.

Her first story? Bathsheba. The opening scene? When she steps out onto the roof to take her bath. It was a nice enough scene, one that gave readers interesting information on the cleansing rituals of the day and that let us know some about Bathsheba’s background. But it was a lot of telling. So I gave the writer a series of assignments and set her loose on the scene.

Well! Let me tell you, that opening scene has come ALIVE. As I read her rewrite, I was transported to that rooftop. I smelled the fragrant blossoms around and in the bath; luxuriated in the silky oils she rubbed into her hair and skin; studied the night sky, worrying with Bathsheba over her warrior husband, Uriah, who was out on the battlefield and not safe at home. I whispered with her the ritual prayers, and then was rocked, as was she, by the terrifying sensation that someone was out there, watching…

It was night and day, folks. The story was so much more emotive, so much more powerful, being shown rather than told. So I encourage you, don’t give up on doing the work. Yes, by all means, tell when it’s right. But when you want to transport your readers, when you want to immerse them in your story and characters, put in the time and effort to show.

Your readers will bless you for it.

 

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News You Can Use – May 8, 2012

Traditional Advertising is Truly Dead – Not sure I agree with the over the top headline, but the article does make some excellent points. A quote from the article:

“The equation used to be: money x media = business.

The new equation is: time x media = business.

In other words, every company is a media company.”

Microsoft has invested in Barnes & Noble’s Nook – But before everyone gets excited, remember that Microsoft also invested in Yahoo in 2009 (in order to enhance the Bing search engine).

Ten Rules for Writing Suspense Fiction – In 1994 John Grisham credited this article for giving him the tools he needed to write The Firm. Save this one and refer to it often!

On Fiction and Literature – a great interview with Russell Moore. A quick quote from the interview:

“…good fiction isn’t a “waste of time” for the same reason good music and good art aren’t wastes of time. They are rooted in an endlessly creative God who has chosen to be imaged by human beings who create. Culture isn’t irrelevant. It’s part of what God commanded us to do in the beginning, and that he declares to be good. When you enjoy truth and beauty, when you are blessed by gifts God has given to a human being, you are enjoying a universe that, though fallen, God delights in as “very good.”

Why Men Should Read More Fiction! – a fascinating article. What do you think? Agree or disagree?

Design the Ultimate Home Page for your Blog – an extensive article with visual examples.

4 Ways to Grow a Twitter Following that Matters – an extensive article with numerous resources. Well done.

The top 10 most read books of the last 50 years (found on the First Things blog). Take heart, the Bible by itself was read more than the other top nine books combined:

 

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Write a Fan Letter Today

by Steve Laube

Everyone likes being appreciated. It is as simple as receiving a “thank you.” For the writer it is like a cold drink of water in the middle of a desert wasteland. The writing life is a bit like placing your words into a bottle and tossing it into an endless ocean, hoping that it doesn’t sink, and simultaneously hoping that someone somewhere will find those words and be touched by them.

Today, instead of waiting for someone else to tell you what a great writer you are, write your favorite author(s) a note of appreciation.  Because no one understands the anguish and crushing weight of the writing life better than another writer.

In Austin Kleon’s new book Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative he has a section titled “Write Fan Letters.” He writes, “The most important thing is that you show your appreciation without expecting anything in return, and that you get new work out of the appreciation.” 

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Fun Fridays – May 4, 2012

Enjoy this clever three minute book trailer for the new prequel to The Godfather releasing next week (titled The Family Corleone).

No editors were harmed in the filming of this video. At least that we know of.

Watch past the credits.

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What Is the Agent Doing While I Wait?

You submit a great manuscript to an agent. Then you wait. And wait. And wait.

What could she possibly be doing?

Let’s say your baby jumped most of the hurdles and is near the top of the slush pile. (See the previous post on the Mystery of the Slush Pile) Why can’t the agent make up her mind? Might I offer a few ideas:

1.) Market changes can mean a shift in priorities. An agent may receive an email at five in the afternoon on any given Friday that opens up a new market or closes an old one. The agent may need to reevaluate and reassess her strategy. This does not mean agents chase the market. What it does mean is that, for example, if markets are trending away from a certain type of novel (Remember hen lit?) the agent may realize she’d better focus on the writers she already has rather than risking taking on a new client writing that type of book, no matter how wonderful. Or if a huge market opens up, the agent might focus on that category for awhile, shunting your wonderful retelling of Genesis to the side, if only temporarily.

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Wordle Anyone?

Some days you just have to take a break and do something fun. That’s what we’re doing today with Wordle. Just hop over to the website (www.wordle.net) and have at it! Below is a Wordle for one of Steve’s keynote speeches:

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Christian Book Awards

Congratulations to our client Mesu Andrews (represented ) for winning the 2012 Christian Book Award for best New Author!

Here is the list of winners:

CHRISTIAN BOOK OF THE YEAR

Nearing Home, Billy Graham (Thomas Nelson)

Category: BIBLES

ESV Student Study Bible (Crossway)

Category: BIBLE REFERENCE

Dictionary of Christian Spirituality, Glen G. Scorgie (Zondervan)

Category: CHILDREN

The Story for Children, A Storybook Bible, Max Lucado, Randy Frazee, and Karen Davis Hill (Zonderkidz)

Category: FICTION

The Queen, Steven James (Revell/ Baker Publishing Group)

Category: INSPIRATION

The Law of Happiness, Dr. Henry Cloud (Howard Books)

Category: NEW AUTHOR

Love Amid the Ashes, Mesu Andrews (Revell/ Baker Publishing Group)

Category: NON-FICTION

Close Enough to Hear God Breathe, Greg Paul (Thomas Nelson)

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News You Can Use – May 1, 2012

Amanda Hocking is Happy with her Publisher – An update from the woman whose self-published ebooks garnered a monster traditional deal.

10 Best First Lines in Fiction – Chosen by editors at the Guardian (UK). Do you agree or disagree?

How We Will Read in the Future – An excellent interview with Maria Popova, the curator for the great BrainPickings blog. (The article is about 2,500 words long so take your time to absorb her thoughts.)

The Return of the Novella – “The Atlantic” article things this art form will have a resurgence. I contend it has been around, but not in a sizeable way. Try presenting one to a publisher and then talk about how easy they will eventually sell to the public.

How Do You Know You’ve Made it as a Writer? – Steve Ulfelder attempts to answer the question right after being nominated for an award for his first novel.

Market Your Book Through Google Ads – Ever wondered if this is a good use of your money? And if so, how you would go about it? Vikram Narayan does an excellent job introducing the idea. If it works, let us know!

The Most “Kindled” City in the U.S. – The answer may surprise you. The analysis of the whole article is fascinating.

Four Best Twitter Tools – Agree? Any you want to add?

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Blood, Guts and Peanuts: What it’s Like Writing with Ted Dekker

Guest blog by Tosca Lee

Our guest today is Tosca Lee, author of Demon: A Memoir and Havah: The Story of Eve. She is also the co-author with Ted Dekker of the NYTimes bestseller Forbidden. The next book in that series will be out this Summer. A sought-after speaker and former Mrs. Nebraska, Tosca was a senior consultant for a global consulting firm until turning to writing full-time. She holds a degree in English and International Relations from Smith College and also studied at Oxford University. Please visit her web site at www.toscalee.com.

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People ask me often what it’s like writing with Ted. “Is he weird?” they say. “Does he really paint his nails/eat small children/write from a dungeon?”

Of course he’s weird. As weird as anyone else who grew up with cannibals. As strange as your average seven million bookselling novelist who lives mostly on peanuts and barbeque in Texas and, you know, speaks an obscure language known only to remote tribes in Papua New Guinea.

Or as weird as you and me.

And yet, the questions persist. “He scares me,” author friends confess in low tones.

He scares me, too. Because, you know, it’s just not healthy to eat that many peanuts.

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