Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Seek and Destroy Sneaky Telling & GIVEAWAY!
Cheryl Wyatt here. I have editor Jeff Gerke to thank for the enlightenment of today's post. In addition to being an outstanding author, Jeff is publisher of Marcher Lord Press. He taught me what "sneaky telling" was at last year's American Christian Fiction Writers www.acfw.com conference and it has absolutely revolutionized my writing.
I was going over an old manuscript that won awards in unpubbed contests to see if I wanted to try to market it. I've grown a lot in craft since writing it almost seven years ago, so I thought there couldn't be much wrong with it since it won first place in ACFW's Genesis Contest in the Mystery, Suspense, Thriller category.
But Jeff found TEN (count them...TEN) instances of sneaky telling...all on the first page or two! LOL.
So apparently I do this sneaky telling thing quite a bit.
I know what regular telling is, like when you totally narrate the story rather than let it play out as in a movie. Also, telling can mean using telling words such as "felt," "saw," "watched," "wondered" and a slew of other sensory words when just simply stating what the character felt, saw, wondered would suffice.
Sneaky telling is a bit more tricky.
In Stealth Surrender, the story Jeff went over I have an F-22 pilot in a cockpit being chased by three foreign aircraft. The pilot is communicating with a commander via the plane's communication system. The pilot states: “Looks like three prehistoric Migs and an F5.” The word prehistoric is what Jeff calls sneaky telling. Reason being that a seasoned fighter pilot and his (or her...grin) commander would know that a mig is an older model plane, so this character wouldn't use that wordage. Basically what I did in this instance and all the others was try to spoon feed the reader vital information. Jeff taught me to be mindful of not violating character for the sake of exposition.
Another example of sneaky telling was when the commander told another serviceman later to, "Meet me in my office here at Bagram immediately." Well, duh. What part of that was sneaky telling?
"at Bagram." Why? Because both characters already know where the commander's office is. I was trying to let the reader know, yet in doing so I violated character. The other reason that was sneaky telling was because both servicemembers were already at Bagram. LOL! So it's obvious I'm sneaking info to the reader and not being very good at it. To stay in deep POV, keep the characters knowing what the characters know. Is this making sense yet?
Let's see if you can spot the "sneaky telling" in some of my other lines:
“Audio warnings shot down the commander’s suggestion, and confirmed the seasoned fighter pilot’s foreboding suspicion.”
Can you find it? Answer: the seasoned fighter pilot. Why:
In Jeff's words: "Think of show vs. tell in this way: if the camera can see it, it’s not telling. So, can the camera see that he is a seasoned fighter pilot? No, not in that moment. You just told us that. The trick is to convert invisible telling to visible showing. Let’s say all you had to work with were a movie camera and a microphone—how would you get across that he was a seasoned fighter pilot? Probably by showing him do things that no rookie could do. Maybe even a “It’ll be just like Iraq” or some comments like that too."--Jeff
Okay, here's another line. See if you can spot the sneaky telling:
“R.J. had gained unwavering confidence in the sophisticated Raptor to know it could…”
Answer: The word "confidence" is the sneaky telling there. Ask yourself this: Can the camera see what confidence he’d gained? No. But I could show him exhibiting confidence in the plane.
Here's another. Spot the "sneaky telling": “One of the raven-haired puppies his team had adopted after rescuing them from a live mine where they’d scrounged for food, sprawled across Micah’s cot stretched, lifted her head, opened one eye and yawned.”
The trick is to ask yourself: What portion of this can the camera see? We see a dog yawn. That’s it. The rest—the history of where the dogs came from—is invisible to the camera. It’s sneaky telling.
There were a TON more examples that I'll maybe share another day, but go through your manuscripts on one of your final proofreads to seek and destroy any sneaky telling on your part. It's easily fixable.
Jeff has some great writing tips here:
He is also publisher for Marcher Lord Press, an innovative Christian Speculative Fiction company. See www.marcherlordpress.com for more details. There are some GREAT speculative fiction books out now and previously from MLP that would make excellent Christmas presents for the readers in your life who love something that's both wholesome and different. Hope you will check them out.
Now go seek and destroy the "sneaky telling" in your own work. Then come back and share it as well as what you did to fix it.
THIS JUST IN: Jeff stopped by and is offering a FREE copy of his new craft book: The Art & Craft of Writing Christian Fiction, by Jeff Gerke. Guys, he is an outstanding editor, so this is a fabulous book. Everyone who comments will be entered so please leave your e-mail address in the comment section so we can contact you should you win. Deadline for entry will be Midnight CST Thursday, Dec 17.
***Entries limited to the Continental U.S. only please***
Review of Jeff's book:
I just read the most wonderful book, The Art & Craft of Writing Christian Fiction, by Jeff Gerke. It had been on my shelf for a while, because I'd been busy with deadlines and such, but while recovering from surgery this past week I finally read it. And now, I'm kicking myself for not reading it months ago, because it is absolutely packed with excellent advice. Reading it was like sitting down with the author and receiving an in-depth workshop in my own home.
I'd recommend it whether you're an aspiring author, or have dozens of books under your belt. I've sold twenty-eight books or so now, and in addition to the great nuts-and bolts information (which I loved) he gave me so many new insights on the art of writing Christian fiction. I would recommend this book to any Christian writer, at whatever place they might be along the spectrum from beginner to advanced.
I'm going to order another copy to give to a critique friend, who is hoping to break into the Christian market. What a perfect Christmas present!
Don't forget to leave a comment to be entered! Everyone who commented prior to me posting this GIVEAWAY addendum will be automatically entered.