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The Gap

April 25, 2013

Ira Glass quote

Tell the Reader Why

April 18, 2013

One of the the most tricky part in writing a story is knowing the perfect mix of show and tell. So it’s not a surprise that this is a favorite topic I read about and like share to you guys.

Mooderino, one of the greatest blog ever, posted an article that talks about when to give information so that your readers don’t  feel like they’re being duped. I’ve mentioned this technique in Book Review : The Book Thief and also in Four Levels of Showing and Telling. 

You can read the article below:

tell me why

“While showing, rather than telling, is an excellent technique when it comes to moments of action, drama and emotion, there are times when telling is a far more useful and efficient approach to take.

One of those times is when dealing with motivation. Why a character does what he does is going to be a key part of any scene.

It’s important that you make the reader aware of the character’s reasons as quickly as possible. As a writer, you may think you can withhold that information and that the reader will assume you will fill them in later and not be too bothered.

You would be wrong.

It’s incredibly annoying not knowing the reasons for a character’s actions, and it directly affects how you view what they’re doing. It’s much more difficult to engage or empathize with a character when you don’t know their reasons.

But it’s hard to show motivation, especially if there are subtle or complex reasons behind a character’s behaviour. And in most cases it’s just a matter of practical necessity.

Trying to ‘show’ that motivation wouldn’t be difficult and totally unnecessary. And not telling the reader until later would gain nothing and just make the story seem vague.

It’s obvious why aspiring writers often take the vague approach. The idea of not knowing what’s going on and then finding out seems like a narrative structure that will keep readers engaged, but it’s an artificial way to do it. If a guy is searching under his bed for something there’s no point in making a mystery out of it if all he’s doing is looking for his shoes.

There’s also the issue of POV. If the character knows why they’re doing what they’re doing, so should the reader (assuming we’re in that character’s POV). Not revealing the reasons just feels unnecessarily coy.

Of course, if the POV character doesn’t know why they’re doing what they’re doing then neither will the reader, but in that case someone should ask them (or they should ask themselves) why they’re acting in this way. You don’t have to provide an answer, but showing the reader you are aware of the lack of motivation will buy you time. Not for very long though.

Because often the reason writers decide it is worth allowing the reader to be confused is because of the extra sense of intrigue it produces. But in truth, as long as the character’s reasons are valid, they won’t be any more interesting by revealing them later.”

 

John Green Reviews “The Great Gatsby”

April 11, 2013

Previously, we did a book review on The Great Gatsby. To be honest, I was not so enthralled by the story the first time I read it. But thanks to the all-so-famous-and-awesome John Green, I was able to dig down deeper and understand the theme of the novel.

Here’s a crash course on The Great Gatsby. Enjoy!
 

 
P.S.
Can’t wait for the movie!

When Gravity is Gone by Livia Nelson

April 4, 2013

anti-gravity

The first thing we noticed was the dust bunnies. They’d float up into he corners of the ceilings and cluster there until they were big enough that we noticed them, hovering up there like miniature storm clouds. Those of us who owned feather dusters with long handles attached to them swiped them down, rolled the dust into balls that we put into the trash, but the next day the corners of the ceiling would be dark again.

We didn’t really know what was going on until leaves and feathers and dirt started hovering at about waist level. We walked out to our front yards and walked through them and it seemed like we were walking through a shallow lake atop which all this detritus was floating, but the water wasn’t there, just air. Children pushed flower petals and acorns back onto the ground, like it was a game, but after a moment they floated back up again, stopping about 3 feet up.

By the next day it was all floating even higher, disappearing up into the sky like wayward balloons.

One morning, all of the cushions on our porch furniture was gone. That’s when we stopped letting the cat out. Small rocks and mulch and potted plants came loose from the ground, so that if we accidentally hit one with our feet, it floated across the ground like a hockey puck across ice.

The news didn’t have any answers; or rather, they had too many. Some people said that it had to do with polluted ground water changing the chemical makeup of rocks and plants, making their density lighter than air, like dust. But that dust explain why our sons’ rubber basketballs and lacrosse balls and canvas baseballs were stuck up in the rafters of the garage that morning, like a model of the solar system. Of course the Christians said that Judgment Day was coming, that this was something of a plague. Scientists from NASA came on and said that the Earth’s orbit was straying unusually far from the sun this year, causing a shift in gravitational force. This was the theory we believed- we noticed that the scales in our bathroom said we weighed several pounds less than we actually did.

The television showed shots of fish that had been forced to the surface of the ocean and were stuck floating there, though still alive; in New York City and HongKong and Paris the garbage floated so thickly in the air that people who lived in tall buildings couldn’t see out their windows; no one could go to the beach anymore because the sand hung like a fog. One day we realized all of the bugs and birds were gone.

The scariest day was when we woke up and felt like we were underwater. The bed linens were tucked into the corners of the mattress at the foot of the bed, but the other two corners were up in the air, gently rippling like a flag. We bounced across the hallway floors, feeling too slow, and found the kids hanging on to the posts of their bunk beds. Our youngest son was on top of a bureau, wedged in the three foot space between the top of it and the ceiling. He couldn’t get down. We tied bricks around their sneakers, tied down everything we could with whatever yarn and string and shoelaces we could find.

After that, we stopped going outside.

Soon enough, we had to stop watching television. The newscaster wore bags of sand around their middles and only reported who had floated off into oblivion that day. It upset the kids.

After that, Earth as we knew it only lasted another month.

Original source.

Thoughts from a Grumpy Literary Agent

March 28, 2013

This site is probably one of those I’m sure to visit whenever I am online. I like the wit, humor, and sarcasm of whoever literary agent is running this page. Go check out SlushPile Hell and be informed on what not to put on your query letter.

slushpilehell

Today’s Writing Advice: Less is More

March 21, 2013

I do agree that when I write, sometimes I get tempted to show off my (not so) vast vocabulary and go on and on with describing how the setting looks like or what my character is wearing. But when I read it all back I lose interest and feel like I’m wasting my time on something that doesn’t really make sense (unless you are a witness describing a crime scene then that would be very helpful.)

Today’s writing advice is short and sweet : Less is more.

Here are some ways to avoid stranding your reader in Description Land:

 

  • Instagram Characters. When we meet people, we make an instant assessment. Unless we have all the time in the world to observe, our brains pick out the most important cues to store as memory. If you as writer belabor a description–say starting at the head and working your way to the feet, it may strike the reader as odd and well, boring. When you describe a character, think of what would hit you in an instant: red suspenders, unkempt hair, a nose ring. Try crossing out half or more of your modifiers (adjectives and adverbs). Work to describe the character sparingly, but in a way that gives the impression you wish the reader to take away.


  • Weave Your Settings. As I’ve preached before, a setting quickly fades from the reader’s mind as dialogue and action take over. Instead of “chunking” all the description of a place in one spot (usually at the beginning of the scene), try sprinkling little reminders in with the action. EX: She pounded the mixing table, sending loose flour flying.

 

  • Manage Those Details. A writer’s task is one of particular noticing. That is, you are not going to give each and every detail equal weight. By calling attention to the important details, you direct the reader’s focus. Thus, if you want the reader to see a character as generous or forgiving, you might show that person dressed inconspicuously. By contrast, a flashy dresser pushes the impression to one of self-centeredness, unless you do other things to offset it. In managing your reader, it really is true that less is more. Avoid over describing so that your story doesn’t get lost in the details.

 
Original Article: Escape to Description Land : Less is More

MacKenzie Rae on “Emma”

March 14, 2013

jane-austen_emma_cover

Emma seemed extremely familiar to me, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. A couple chapters in my friend saw me reading, and spilled, “that’s the book Clueless is based on!” Bingo. My favorite movie as a pre-teen reflected in early 19th century lit. LOL. I must admit that this kept me reading. The first 100 pages I found rather dull, but now that I could visualize the characters as a young Paul Rudd and a bleach blonde Alicia Silverstone, the novel brought a little smile to my face. “AS IF!”

As the charm of the Clueless ties faded, I found myself a bit perplexed. I wanted to love Emma, because I love Austen. But… hmm… I thought it was a bit silly. Well, silly for Austen, not silly for nowadays.

Emma thoughts:

1. Emma – One of the things I enjoy most about Austen’s novels is her ability to write strong, intelligent, logical main characters. Austen’s leading ladies may have a moment of poor judgement, or misjudge someone’s character (ahem… Darcy), but overall they are level-headed and good. Emma does not fit this bill. She may have a sweet nature about her, but she is judgmental and meddles in other’s lives. Sure, she learns her lesson in the end, but she annoyed me the entire book!

2. Predictable? – Maybe I’m just seeing patterns as this is my fourth Austen, but I found this plot much more predictable than the others. Especially everything revolving around Mr. Elton and Mr. Knightley…  so obvious!

3. Too much down time – I greatly enjoy how carefully and subtly Austen’s plots develop and reveal themselves. The gradual nature of her novels makes them more realistic, and also makes the climax much more heartfelt and grand. This said, I think Emma had too much down time. I wanted more, and never got it.

Now that I got this out of my system, who am I to critique Austen? Even though I didn’t particularly like Emma, it’s leaps and bounds better than a lot of what you’ll read. I mean, come on! It’s a classic.

RATING: 3.5 stars.

 

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