28 June 2012

Show and Tell

I've been reading a lot of self-published, or indie, books lately. I've also been reading some as-yet-unpublished manuscripts and a lot of flash-fiction on blogs. I really enjoy the creativity and the different voices and genres I've been exposed to through this. However, (you knew there was going to be a "however," right?) I've noticed a trend towards "telling" rather than "showing." By "telling" I mean dry description of the kind you'd see in a history textbook, and by "showing" I mean making us feel the POV character's emotions and giving us the descriptions through their eyes.

For an example, I will use a short passage from my current WiP. If I had written this using "telling," it would look something like this:

When he awoke, he was in his bedroom. It was lit only faintly by a sliver of moonlight that slipped through the heavy drapes. His head ached fiercely. The darkness was a blessing. Even the tiny shred of light hurt his head. He sat up and dizziness overcame him. He groaned and dropped his head into his hands.

And if I used "showing," it would be more like:

When he awoke, he was in his bedroom, which was lit only faintly by a sliver of moonlight that slipped through the heavy drapes. He felt as if a vise were squeezing his temples, trying to crush his skull. He was thankful for the darkness, as even the tiny shred of light cut into his eyes like a knife. He sat up--and the room spun and swung around him like a pendulum. An involuntary groan escaped his lips as he let his head fall into his hands.

See the difference? It's not that obvious at first glance, and I'm not sure if I'm "doing it right" yet, but I think the second version is a much more interesting read. I've tried to make it flow like thoughts do as, even though it isn't first person, we are inside the MC's head seeing his thoughts and feelings. Even in first person, you can fall into this trap. Eg: "My head ached fiercely. The darkness was a blessing. I groaned." This still doesn't "show."

Also, if you notice, the sentences are much shorter and choppier in the first version. These short sentences don't flow easily. In my humble opinion, the way I've put them together in the second version is much better. Now, I don't mean that longer sentences are always better than short. Sometimes, short sentences can convey the emotion better than long ones. But that's a topic for another blog post. The point is to convey the emotion in a way that keeps the reader reading.

What do you think? Do you find yourself "telling" or "showing" in your writing? Do you find it easy to "show" or not? Do you think it's better to "show"?

27 June 2012

What is a Tween?

You may have heard the word "tween" used lately--a lot. Most people who use it mean a preteen, "a person who is between the ages of 10 and 12 years old" (Wikipedia, Tween) and I've heard people say that it's a "new word." However, I first read this word years ago, in a little book series called The Lord of the Rings, which "was written in stages between 1937 and 1949" (Wikipedia, The Lord of the Rings). In Tolkien's novels, tween is used "  to refer to Hobbits in their twenties: "...tweens as Hobbits called the irresponsible twenties between childhood and the coming of age at thirty-three."[43] In this context, the word is really either a shortened version of between or a portmanteau of teen and twenty, and in either case has no connection to "teens," preteens or the American marketing niche" (Wikipedia, Preadolescence). I think from this it's quite clear that it isn't a new word.

Every time I hear the word, I think of these guys:
We were tweens before it was cool!

Merry and Pippin are the archetypal tweens in my mind: fun-loving young people who don't take life too seriously and offer some much-needed comic relief. 
Pippin: Anyways, you need people of intelligence on this sort of... mission... quest... thing. 
Merry: Well, that rules you out, Pip. 

And they're always thinking about food.
Pippin: What about breakfast? 
Aragorn: You've already had it. 
Pippin: We've had one, yes. What about second breakfast? 
[Aragorn turns and walks off in disgust
Merry: I don't think he knows about second breakfast, Pip. 
Pippin: What about elevenses? Luncheon? Afternoon tea? Dinner? Supper? He knows about them, doesn't he? 
Merry: I wouldn't count on it. 

I for one am going to continue using tween to refer to people like Merry and Pippin. What about you? What do you think?

26 June 2012

Fairy Tale Madness!

I'm so excited about the "WHAT IF" FAIRY TALE MADNESS BLOGFEST! I have no idea what fairy tale I'm going to write about, but I'm going to give it my best shot. I'll do plot twists, just because.

15 June 2012

Knights of Microfiction

It's time for Knights of Microfiction, hosted by Jessica K. McKendry. This month, the prompt is "Write a flash fiction in 200 words or less beginning with the phrase:  Her eyes shot open...
You are free to change the gender and POV if you want.

Here's my entry:

Her eyes shot open and she flung herself to the side, rolling off the bed and landing on hands and knees on the cabin floor. His eyes glittered and he hissed in frustration as his dagger cut through the mattress. Pulling it free with a jerk, he lunged at her, but a swell tossed the floor beneath him, throwing him against the wall. She drew a knife from her boot and followed him, stabbing in fury.
“Remind me never to make you that angry.”
Bloody blade held in front of her, she spun to confront the new threat.
“Whoa. Whoa.” He stepped back, his hands up with palms out. “It’s me.”
“How did that get into my quarters?” She pointed at the corpse with her knife.
He rubbed his chin and eyed her sideways while studying the body. “Judging by the state of his clothes, he’s been stowed away in the bilge. Probably came aboard where we stopped for fresh water.”
“How long will she send them after me! How long!?” She flung her knife into the wall where it stuck, quivering.
He pulled her into his arms, but made no reply. None was needed.

That's Not Me--That's My Sister!

I am two years older than my sister and people always thought we looked alike. I have red hair and she has brown, but they still often thought we were identical twins or something. Even my parents would often start to say 'Charlotte' when speaking to me or 'Esther' when speaking to her. We have always been best friends, so we did almost everything together. I got really used to being called Charlotte throughout high school and in activities we did together. When I volunteered at summer camp when I was 17 and she was only 15 so too young, I went almost a whole summer without being called Charlotte. Then, on the last day of camp, my whole family came to the last day BBQ and Charlotte went to my cabin to pack my stuff while I helped to clean up. One of my camp friends saw her and thought she was me. lol

I still look up when I hear the name Charlotte just as I do when I hear my own name.

Charlotte was my maid of honour. (I'm the one in the white dress.) 

I realized that I can't think of a single example in fiction where this happens to a character (except for actual identical twins). Most fictional characters don't even have siblings. When a set of identical twins are mistaken for each other in fiction, it is often because they planned it (eg: the Weasley twins from Harry Potter, Bridget & Siobhan from Ringer).

Can you think of any examples in fiction where a character is mistaken for or called by the name of his/her sibling who is not an identical twin?

I think I might use this in a future story. Do you think you might?

13 June 2012

50,000 Words?

The goal for Camp NaNoWriMo is 50,000 words written during the month of June. I'm currently sitting at just over 5000 and we're almost halfway through. And I'm almost done writing the story. I've got only a few scenes left and then the in-between parts to write. I'm pretty sure I'm not going to get anywhere near 50,000 words.

This isn't a surprise for me. When I was in university, I never was able to write the 2000-3000 word essays the professors asked for. My essays were usually 1000-1500 words if I really padded them out. I hated those minimum word requirements. My favourite professor didn't have word requirements; he always said, "Say what you need to say, and then stop."

It's a little different with fiction, though. I can always go back and add in descriptions and such when revising. However, I'm sure I'll also be cutting while I'm revising, so I don't know if that will raise my word count by much. I'm not too worried about it though. I will say what I need to say, and then I will stop. If my novel is more of a novelette, that's fine too. I'll make it the best novelette I can make it. :)

09 June 2012

I Just Made My First Novel Outline

When it comes to writing, I've always leaned more towards being a pantser. I often have something of an outline in my head, but I've never written one out on paper. However, I've also never finished a novel. For Camp NaNoWriMo, I've been writing all over the place--I have the story in my head, and I write whatever scene grabs me each day. Ergo: not in order. I realized that I have no idea how it's going to end, and I'm not even sure what order some of these scenes should go in. So today, I got some index cards, and I sat down with a pen and wrote one scene on each card. (I haven't written some of these scenes yet, so this also helped me know what I still need to write.) Then I shuffled them around until I figured out what order they should be. I looked at the last card, and realized that could be the ending of the novel!
I will never be the type of writer who creates a detailed outline of all plot points, but I realized today that some structure appeals to me. I'll probably use this method when writing future manuscripts as well.
What about you? What method works for you? Do you need a detailed outline? Do you--like me--need a little bit of structure to help you know where you're going? Or do you just fly by the seat of your pants?

07 June 2012

I DO Have Time to Write!

Camp NaNoWriMo is teaching me so much. I used to think I would write a novel some day, when I have the time. But why would I think that the future will be so different than today? Why would I have more time to write "some day" than I do now? Having a goal with a time limit in which to complete said goal is very motivating. I'm finding that I do have time to write--or rather, I am making time to write.
I also found my own personal writing style: I put the computer away, get a pen and a notebook, and do it old school. This is a very visceral way of getting words out, and they flow so easily. The pen feels like an extension of my hand. I'm a very fast touch typist, so I wouldn't have thought it, but the keyboard gets in my way. It doesn't feel natural. I'm also way too tempted to revise while typing. I'll type my novel up later, after Camp is over, and I'm ready to start revising.
For those of you who are also Camping this month, what is Camp NaNo teaching you about yourself and your personal writing style?

04 June 2012

Plugging Slowly Away

So I got over 2000 words today for Camp Nano. I'm sitting at 2477. At this rate, I'll finish in August. Ah well. I'm not that fussed over the 50,000 word goal. If this is a novelette rather than a novel, that's fine with me. I always write shorter than word counts anyway.
This is great fun, though. And I'm learning how to be dedicated to writing regularly--and how to find the time to write in my busy day. I'm surprising myself at how much writing I'm actually getting done. :)

NaNo - NaNo
Sorry - I couldn't resist :)

01 June 2012

I'm Going to Camp - NaNo!

I just heard about this today, but I'm joining in. I've never done NaNoWriMo, and was planning to try it this year in November, but why not now? Sounds like fun.

My Camp NaNo Profile.

Is anyone else going to camp NaNo this summer?