Monthly Archives June 2013

Critique Technique, Part 12: Showing and Telling in Character Development

“Show, don’t tell.” We writers get told that all the time. ALL the time. (Well, except recently, when blogger Jael McHenry suggested “flipping the script” on Writer Unboxed.)

The thing is, neither telling nor showing are wrong, per se. What’s “wrong” is relying on either one too much, or using one technique where the other would be more effective. This is true in character development and revelation as much as it is in any other aspect of writing. As a reviewer, that’s what you should be looking for in someone else’s writing.

Let’s take a few examples. Carol’s relationship with boyfriend Bob is everything she hoped and dreamed it would be. She gets all tingly and happy whenever she thinks of him. He calls her every day, even when they’ve been together...

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Great Stuff for Writers, June 24, 2013

Major changes coming again to my Great Stuff posts. Starting next month, I’m going to again scale way back on these posts, for a lot of reasons:

  • Technical buffoonery on my part that made the Twitter links back to them produce “page not found” errors that I didn’t know about (but should have). I know better now.
  • Time. This is the main reason. It just takes too much time to produce these posts in the current form.
  • Others are doing it better. They have bigger audiences. Another reason why my time isn’t being well spent on these posts.
  • I need to rethink my social media involvement, such as it is.

So, July 1st, when Google Reader dies, is a good time for a reevaluation and restructuring on these posts. What will that be? Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, here’s the Great Stuff for Writers from...

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Critique Technique, part 11: Lack of Character Development

We’ve been talking about characterization. One of the key things readers want to see in a story (fiction or non-fiction) is some sign of change—positive, we hope, but that isn’t required—in the characters over the course of the story. The protagonist may not get what he wants by the end, or even what he deserves, but he should grow or change in some way. The same is true for the secondary characters.

Even the antagonist needs to change. She doesn’t have to see the light, realize the error of her ways, and become the good person we always knew she could be, and that she always wanted to be deep down inside. That’s awfully cliché, isn’t it? Nor does she have to end up dead, even though she might richly deserve it, but she, too, needs to change in some way.

A short story or an ...

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Great Stuff for Writers, June 17, 2013

Quite a collection in today’s Great Stuff. There’s the Hero’s Journey, Niccolo Macchiavelli, who was probably not a hero, Aunt Edna, who might or might not have been one, and a cadaver or two. All in the service of writing. Plus foreign rights agents, dirty talk, and much more. Dive in!

CRAFT

Gregory Ciotti’s (@GregoryCiotti) Copyblogger post, What a Notorious 16th-Century Philosopher Can Teach You About Content Marketing Today, might seem to have nothing to do with creative writing, given that its target market is the business blogger. That seeming would be wrong. Niccolo Macchiavelli’s The Prince was controversial, sure, and it’s the book he’s most remembered for, but what’s important to us short story and novel writers is how he used controversy to stir—and maintain—inte...

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Critique Technique, Part 10: Poor Characterization

Whoa, it’s been way too long since I’ve posted anything. The reason is this topic is one I’m uneasy writing about: characterization is the part of writing I think I have the most trouble with. You’d think that since writing these posts is also a form of self-teaching, I’d want to address this subject, but noooooo…

Time to quit stalling. Before I go on, though, a DISCLAIMER: what follows just scratches the surface of characterization. People have written many books on creating believable characters, and I’m smart enough to know I can’t cover everything they do in one post, or even a series of them.

With that in mind, what do I mean by poor characterization? What makes it poor, and how can you as a reviewer spot it, describe it, and offer help for it to the “guilty” writer?...

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Great Stuff for Writers, June 10, 2013

From characters to research to finding an editor to doing your own editing (both necessary!), to more besides, we’re covering quite a waterfront today. Let’s dive right in.

CRAFT

An editorial style sheet isn’t something most writers pay attention to, do, or even know what it is. Rachelle Gardner (@RachelleGardner) makes a case for creating one in How to Create a Style Sheet for Your Manuscript. The bottom line for this thing is consistency—in spelling, grammar, punctuation, relationships, physical characteristics, basically anything that you could not keep straight over the course of writing a novel. And which, count on it, some reader will catch.

Donald Maass (@DonMaass) draws an analogy between your characters’ journey through a story and his own family’s hikes in and map study o...

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We’re All Gonna Die!!!!!!

I was going to write this post last week, but that was when there was so much tornado activity in Oklahoma City, and since I used to live there and still have lots of friends around town, it just didn’t seem right, not with a title like that.

Now that things have calmed down there, however….

Virus particle

 One of the things that got me started on The Eternity Plague was the first Asian bird flu epidemic, back in the early 2000s. It wasn’t the epidemic so much, but the way the news media covered it. It seemed like they were almost eager for a pandemic on the scale of the 1918 “Spanish” flu, so they could cover the big, worldwide tragedy.

Well, that was the first pandemic that never really was.

Then there was SARS. Another bust as a news event, as it turned out.

Then there was last winter’s H1N1 flu...

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Great Stuff for Writers, June 3, 2013

Heroes and protagonists, money matters, freelance editors, and Google+: you’ll find all that and more in today’s Great Stuff. Let’s get started, shall we?

CRAFT

Do “hero” or “heroine” mean the same thing as “protagonist?” In Why Your Protagonist Might Not Always Be Your Hero, Katie Weiland (@KMWeiland) explains the distinction and how you can identify who the protagonist really is. (Note that this character is not necessarily an anti-hero, either.) Katie suggests that you ask three questions to identify your protagonist:

  • Who is most important to your plot?
  • Who has the most dramatic character arc?
  • Who has the most at stake?

Katie also continues her Most Common Writing Mistakes series with A Surefire Sign You’re Over-Explaining...

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