Tag Archive - Show don’t tell

How to Get Readers into Your Story—and How to Keep Them There

We’re continuing our look this month at Fatal Flaw # 2—Nothin’ Happenin’. Last week editor Rachel Starr Thomson explained the pitfalls of front-loading scenes with too much narrative, and this week editor Linda Clare continues with the discussion, helping writers see what can be done to get readers quickly into your story, and how to keep them there.

In the opening of many novels, we see a character alone on stage, riding a train, plane, car, or donkey. Many times this character is gazing out a window (unless, of course, she’s riding the donkey), thinking. Some call this “driving to the story.”

Many times this type of “sittin’ and thinkin” scene is so loaded with backstory that readers don’t know when the real story begins—or worse, they don’t care. Let’s look at some ways to fix this kind of Writing that comes across as “nothin’ happenin’.”

The Wilson Principle

To hook your readers and get the story going quickly, your POV character needs someone to interact with. If you write only her thoughts, she has no one who will disagree with her. There is no variety or stimulating action. Just the character sitting, thinking. While an occasional scene opening this way can have a place in a novel, writers risk losing readers’ interest by taking this approach. Continue Reading…

Show, Don’t Tell—But How?

Last week I told a brief joke about a man walking into a bar, accompanied by a piece of asphalt. Like most jokes, this one was short and didn’t give much detail. It had no power or punch, no strong feel of action or movement. I doubt you will remember it a month from now. Other than the man walking and talking and nodding, the “scene” was stagnant, with little to stir the imagination or evoke emotion.

Maybe your own writing feels this way to you—often—and you don’t know what to do to make it better. Maybe you’ve read a dozen books on the writing craft and have attended countless workshops at writers’ conferences and you still can’t seem to “get” how to write powerful, evocative scenes that move your readers. Well, if you sometimes feel like strangling, stabbing, or decapitating your novel because of flat, boring, lackluster scenes, you can shoot your novel instead! Continue Reading…

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