Friday, March 25, 2011

As writers we are often told to “Show, don’t tell.” What does this mean?

To tell it—easy, show it—page turner. David was impressed with that sentence (telling using narrative summary). David’s eyes devoured the typed words—a smile filled his face. Wow. I didn’t believe I had that in me (showing using both action and interior monologue).

Randy Ingermanson has written an excellent description of the tools used in showing and telling. I added the descriptions for each word(s). His full article can be read here.

When we say “showing,” we mean that the author is using the following tools:

• Action. Doing something toward your goal, achieving a purpose, important events in your novel.
• Dialogue. Characters words, formal discussion, spoken words between two or more people in your book.
• Interior Monologue. Expressions of a character’s thoughts and feelings.
• Interior Emotion. A strong feeling or agitation about something or somebody.
• Sensory Description. Heightened sensory (taste, touch, smell, sight, hearing) awareness.

When we say “telling,” we mean that the author is using the following tools:

• Narrative Summary. The story or account of a sequence of events in their proper order.
• Exposition. Act of describing or discussing something in your story. Back-story in your novel.
• Description. The process of giving an account or explanation of something in your story.

An excellent (with examples) definition of Showing and Telling is found at Inspiration for Writers .
“Are you an idiot?” Sam yelled. The glass shattered, causing deep cuts in David’s hand. “What—did you call me?”  If you can show it you can paint a picture in your readers mind, record or film it. In the above example you can sense David’s hand gripping tighter around his glass until it breaks bringing pain (can’t you picture the blood dripping on the floor and hear the anger in David’s voice?).
Here are two examples from my current WIP. You tell me if they are showing or telling. In the first example, Jen (protagonist) meets Perseus (a disguised Greek Prince) for the first time. The second paragraph, from my first novel, describes Jen’s impression when meeting her Supreme Commander of her Army for the first time.  What examples of Showing and telling do you have from your WIP?  
• Jen waved the line closer and for the next two hours, she greeted each person and held their hands as they told their story. One young man approached with a bloodstained patch over his right shoulder—his arm hung useless by his side. Jen liked what she saw. He is not rich, by the cut of his clothing and he is Greek, not Egyptian, she thought. His long brown hair, tied in the back, hung down past his broad shoulders. In addition, his dark brown eyes sparkled of pride and courage. Bowing in front of Jen, he thanked her for saving his best friends life with her magic.

Jen liked what she saw. Narmer was a middle-aged man who had a no-nonsense demeanor. Taller than most of his contemporaries, his hardened face expressed assurance and at the same time wisdom. Jen guessed his weight to be around 180 pounds and almost six feet tall.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


“A smile is the shortest distance between people.”
                                                                 Victor Borge

I want to welcome my new followers. I will be linking my blog with yours and hope that my articles spark something creative in your writing/publishing experience.

Last night I watched the PBS special on my favorite side-splitting pianist, Victor Borge. One of his routines that he performed dealt with punctuation. As new writers we often struggle with the correct usage of punctuation. His world famous, “Phonetic Pronunciation,” makes it all clear. If you have never heard this before please take four minutes and listen…you will laugh.

The eBook revolution is gaining momentum and many published authors are turning to this means of mass communication. New authors are also jumping on the bandwagon. Only a small percent of their books make a large splash in the reader community. Some are poorly written with little or no editing, bad plot, weak characters and redundant story and a few are brilliant.

I read an article on a published author who turned down a $500,000 advance on his most recent book. Randy Ingermanson has a discussion with James Scott Bell and discuses the pros and cons of the author’s decision. Click the link to read the full interview, (Scroll down halfway to find this article).

A year ago I would not have thought of self publishing my own manuscript much less only doing it through the eBook medium. What are your thoughts on only self publishing as an eBook?

Sunday, March 13, 2011

He said—she said in dialogue. How do you mix up these voice tags?

There is an interesting post on Linkedin about the overuse of the he said, she said dialogue tags. How do authors break up this repetitiveness? First let’s assume that the human mind works faster than the eye and that the brain glosses over the, he/she said dialogue tags. Think of it like breathing. The process continues every second of the day and we do not conscientiously think of it. The same can be said of these pesky tags. What our eyes gloss over the brain processes and we move on. Sometimes there is a need for another way to show who is talking.

I use actions in some of my sentences to indicate who is speaking. The examples below show who the speaker is without the, he/she dialogue tags:

“Crazy how that suddenly happened, I mean out of the blue,” Cheryl removed her hand from her brother’s mouth.
“I am sorry to wake you, “David stuttered, “the aircraft has a heating problem, and it is freezing inside.”
“My body is physically here but my mind is still in bed,” David told them.
“I have uncovered a half of a slate palette,” Tom’s excited voice called out.
“My deceased husband found it somewhere outside of town.” Jen’s gaze followed Useret’s hand as she pointed it toward the direction of their camp.

I have a list of alternate dialogue tags often used to add action to your manuscript. It is included below—enjoy.

• Accepted, Acknowledged, Admitted, Advertised, Affirm, Agonized, Agreed, Alleged, Announced, Answered, Appealed, Apply for, Arranged, Articulated, Asked, Asserted, Asseverate, Assumed, Assured, Attract, Aver, Avow,

• Barked, Bawl, Bawled, Beamed, Beckoned, Begged, Bellowed, Beseeched, Blubbered, Blurted, Bossed, Breathed, Broadcast,

• Cajole, Called, Carped, Cautioned, Censured, Chimed in, Chortled, Chuckled, Circulate, Claim, Comforted, Conceded, Concurred, Condemned, Confer, Confessed, Confided, Confirm, Consoled, Contend, Continued, Crave, Cried out, Criticized, Crooned, Crowed,

• Declared, Defend, Demanded, Denote, Dictated, Disclosed, Disposed, Disseminate, Distribute, Divulged, Drawled,

• Emitted, Empathized, Encourage, Encouraged, Entreated, Exact, Exclaimed, Explained, Exposed,

• Faltered, Finished, Fumed,

• Gawped, Get out, Giggled, Given, Glowered, Grieved, Grinned, Groan, Groaned, Growled, Grumbled,

• Handed on, Held, Hesitated, Hinted, Hollered, Howled,

• Impart, Implied, Implored, Importune, Inclined, Indicate, Informed, Inquired, Insisted, Interjected, Invited,

• Jabbered, Joked, Justified,

• Keened,

• Lamented, Laughed, Leered, Lilted,

• Maintained, Make known, Make public, Marked, Mewled, Mimicked, Moaned, Mocked, Mourned, Murmured,

• Necessitated, Needed, Noted,

• Observed, Offered, Ordered,

• Passed on, Pleaded, Postulated, Preached, Premised, Presented, Presupposed, Proclaimed, Prodded, Professed, Proffered, Promised, Promulgated, Proposed, Protested, Provoked, Publicized, Published, Pulled, Put forth, Put out,

• Quaked, Queried, Quipped, Quivered, Quizzed,

• Raged, Ranted, Reckoned that, Rejoiced, Rejoined, Released, Remarked, Remonstrated, Repeated, Replied, Reprimanded, Requested, Required, Requisition, Revealed, Roared,

• Said, Scoffed, Scolded, Seethed, Sent on, Settled, Shared, Shed tears, Shouted, Shrieked, Shrugged, Shuddered, Sniveled, Sobbed, Solicited, Sought, Specified, Spread, Stated, Stressed, Suggested, Supposed, Swore,

• Taunted, Teased, Testified, Thundered, Ticked off, Told, Told off, Tore a strip off, Touted, Transferred, Transmitted, Trembled, Trumpeted,

• Understood, Undertook, Upbraided, Uttered,

• Verified, Vociferated, Voiced, Vouched for, Vouchsafe,

• Wailed, Wanted, Weep, Wept, Wheedle, Whimpered, Whined, Whispered,

• Yawped, Yelled, Yelped,

Word of caution. Be sensible, sprinkle in alternatives to said sporadically, and your work might glitter – use them everywhere, and your work will tarnish.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

To E-publish or not to E-publish

This is a great 1948 movie on the process of putting a book together. It makes you appreciate the word overhead as viewed through the eyes of a publisher. The number of people it takes to set up, print, collate and finally tie it up into a book is impressive. Add to this the cost of the machines, paper, ink, utilities and you wonder how anyone in the publishing industry earned a profit back then.

Question of the day.

I saw a man today who mimicked the opposite of what I did.

“Who are you trying to kid?" I asked, "how is that possible—how can this be? If I move to the right do you wriggle a knee?”

“Nothing as difficult as that,” he assured with glee. “I’d simply move to the left—now do you see?”

With my eyes fixed firmly on his face, I accepted his challenge and quickened my pace—for it was the middle of the night. I walked to the left—he disappeared from sight.

Who did I meet?

Two excellent articles by Randy Ingermanson* on self publishing.

Why James Scott Bell Chose to E-Publish

Is There A Price For Self-Publishing?

*Award-winning novelist Randy Ingermanson, "the
Snowflake Guy," publishes the Advanced Fiction Writing
Ezine, with more than 24,000 readers, every month. If
you want to learn the craft and marketing of fiction,
AND make your writing more valuable to editors, AND
have FUN doing it, visit http://

Download your free Special Report on Tiger Marketing
and get a free 5-Day Course in How To Publish a Novel.