Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The Quickest and Easiest Way to Improve Your Writing: Tip One

How many times have you heard don't tell, show.  I've been reading a book that's pretty good. The story is great, the characters are likable, but it has one major flaw. The characters are never doing anything or feeling anything.

What? You say. How can a character not do anything or feel anything?  Well, the character is always almost doing something or seeing something but they are never quite putting it into action. So, I thought maybe it'd be a good idea to help those of us who are struggling with this. (And, we all do from time to time.)

Just Do It!

Just like every rule in English that you've ever learned, there are times these rules don't apply. But, in general always put them into practice.

There is a line from Star Wars that I like to apply to my life and my writing. This simple rule strengthens any piece of literature.

Do. Or do not. There is no try.

From Star, "Yoda’s most memorable quote, bar none, and one of the greatest in all of Star Wars. This is another line from the X-wing sequence on Dagobah, and are the last instructions the Jedi Master gives Luke before he attempts to raise his fighter from the swamp. Within the scene, it was a lightning bolt of dialogue, another great nugget of undeniable wisdom that teaches Luke to have a more serious mind. Yoda had consistently tried to teach Luke to focus on the present, and essentially, to grow up. In this moment, with these words, he makes it clear. Outside of the film, the line has become a modern slogan — a reminder to commit oneself to something completely, win or lose."

You may be wondering why I went off into a quote from Star Wars, but believe me it is crucial to writing. 

For Example:

You might write:

Lucy could feel the sun on her shoulders. 

(It's okay. But, there is that awful word could in there, and really this is telling not showing. Let's make it stronger, and more exciting.)

Simple Fix: The mid-day sun beat across Lucy's shoulders.


Better Fix: Lucy wiped the sweat from her brow and pulled up her shawl, covering her exposed skin from the scorching sun.  

Which do you prefer? If you chose the last one, notice how many more words it took to write. The original sentence was eight words. The last, 20 words. Just think what showing does to your word count! 

Another quick example of showing not telling: 

You might write:

Figaro could see the flea on his back. (It's an okay sentence, but again that awful word could. It's rather telling, isn't it? )

Now, let's fix it.

Simple fix: Figaro saw the flea on his back. (Still telling not showing.)

Better fix: Figaro nipped and pulled at the fur on his back as he attacked the flea he'd been chasing. (Better -- and again, look what it's done for your word count! It also puts us in the scene. Frankly, the first sentence is BORING.)

So, I hope this quick and easy tip helps you, as much as it helped me to learn. I wish you success in all your writing endeavors! For more writing tips, check out Remove Your Shackles & Write

Write on!

1 comment:

  1. So true.It's also part of what is known by some as deep point of view.