Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Three Ways to Make Your Writing Come Alive!

with guest Janice Hardy.

The best stories are the ones that come alive in a reader's imagination. They pull the reader into the story world and sweep them away in the struggles and dreams of the characters. For us writers, envisioning our stories is the easy part, and the trick is getting what's in our heads onto the page. When we don't, we get a story that falls flat and dies (and who wants that?).

One of the best ways to bring our tales to life is to show them, not tell them. Sadly, this is also one of the hardest things for new writers (and some experienced writers), to do. "Showing" is a moving target that varies by which point of view you use, the narrative distance, and even the genre. What works for a first-person literary journey might not work for a multiple third-person thriller.

Luckily, there are techniques that help you better show your scenes no matter what perspective or genre you write in.

1. Create a Strong Point of View

Point of view (POV) is the silver bullet of writing. If you master this, 95% of the common writing problems a writer faces will vanish. A solid point of view puts you (and your readers) firmly in a character's head, seeing the world through their eyes, and experiencing that world as they would naturally experience it.

This lets you decide which details to use when describing, what actions the character would take, and what they'd think about as they struggle to solve their goals. Seeing the story through a character's eyes means you'll write it as that character sees it, not as you see it. It helps keep you from pulling away and describing (telling) the scene from afar.

For example, a solid point of view changes a detached, flat sentence into something alive:

Weak POV: Sara was so upset that John forgot their anniversary that she threw a vase at him.

Strong POV: Sara heaved the vase at John's head. "Does twelve years mean nothing to you?" 

The weak POV explains the situation--it tells what Sara did (throw the vase) and why she did it (she was upset). The strong POV shows how someone in this situation would act--it shows what Sara did (she threw the vase and voiced her unhappiness) and lets readers figure out how she feels by watching her actions. 

Writing the scene from inside a character's head allows readers to watch and guess why the characters are acting and how they feel. It makes them part of the story, not a spectator on the sidelines getting a detailed play by play of the action.

Look at your current story--what point of view are you using? Do you have one POV character per scene? Do you show the scene through their eyes? Are you describing things that POV character wouldn't know or be able to see (common in weak or unfocused POVs)?
Try picking a POV style you're comfortable with and writing the story with that POV. For new writers, it's much easier to pick one or two characters and write from their POVs only. Trying to show the entire story from multiple characters or an omnificent narrator is difficult to do until you get the hang of it.

If you're not sure which POV style you prefer, try writing a scene from both a third person and a first person perspective. Odds are one will feel more natural for you, and for the story itself.



2. Control Your Narrative Distance

Narrative distance is how close readers feel to the story. A close narrative distance makes them feel inside the narrator's head (such as in first person), while a far narrative distance makes them feel as though they're standing off to the distance watching (such as in omniscient third person). A closer narrative distance feels more immediate and intimate, as though the story is happening in the moment as the reader reads it. The farther the narrative distance, the more detached and impersonal the story feels.

Where you put your narrator determines how close readers feel to your story. If you're inside the head of a character seeing the world through their eyes, readers will feel a part of the narrative. If you're explaining the story from a distance, readers will be kept at a distance and not connect to the characters the same way.

For example:

Far narrative distance: It's over, Bob thought, realizing she'd never forgive him for hurting her.

Close narrative distance: He sank to the floor, numb. It's over. She'll never forgive me for this.

Narrative distance is closely linked to point of view, as you can see by these examples. The farther the narrative distance, the more detached the point of view feels. The closer the distance, the more personal the POV. The two worked in tandem to dramatize (show) the story.

Look at your current story--what narrative distance are you using? Does it feel like the characters are living the story, or like someone outside the story explaining what's going on? 

Does it jump around from close to far depending on what's happening? 

Try revising for consistency. Pick a narrative distance you're comfortable with and keep everything in the story at that distance. Some red flag words to look for that often mean you're telling more than showing include, realized, knew, decided, because, and felt. If you see a lot of these words in areas that also feel a little distant, odds are you're telling from a far narrative distance.

If you're not sure what narrative distance you prefer, try writing a scene from both a close and a far distance and see which one reads better, and which is easier for you to write. But remember--the goal isn't to tell readers everything and explain the scene, it's to show them enough details so they can figure out the what and why by observation.

3. Show What the Characters Do, Not What They Intend to Do

Once you have a solid understanding of point of view and narrative distance, you'll be able to show what the characters do and bring the story to life. Stories are about interesting people solving interesting problems in interesting ways. So show what they do, not what they plan to do. 


One of the most common "tells" is to explain motive. My favorite example is simple, yet something writers write every single day:

She reached over to pick up the cup.

Here, we see the action (she reached over) but then the reason why is explained (to pick up the cup). We never actually see her pick it up, because the action isn't described--just the intent to do it. To turn this from told to shown, we'd change one word:

She reached over and picked up the cup.

Now we see the action and can guess that she reached over to pick up the cup, because we see her reach and then pick up the cup.

While this is a small tell (and writers do it all the time), it's a great example of how easy it is to explain motive and not actually show the action in the scene. Some common red flag words for explaining motive include, to [verb], when, decided, because, in order to, and tried.

Not only will showing the action make scenes feel more immediate and alive, they'll keep readers invested in what's going on, because they won't be told everything ahead of time.
For example, if your character thinks, "All I need to do is sneak past the guards and slip out that window and I'll be able to escape," and then you show him sneaking across the room, you lose all the tension. Readers already know the goal (to get to the window and escape) and they assume it'll happen, because you just told them it would. So there's no suspense and no reason to keep reading.

But if you just have the character start sneaking and working his way across the room while guards patrol mere feet away and readers aren't told why...then readers will wonder what he's up to and why he's risking getting caught. They'll keep reading to find out. Tension stays high and there's something they want to know--does he escape and how.

Look at your current story--how often are your characters thinking about what they plan to do instead of actually doing it? Are they "deciding" to act? "Trying" to act? Moving to "do something" but are never shown physically doing it? Revising these simple explanations turn a flat scene with nothing happening into a scene with lots of action.

And don't forget--"action" doesn't mean the life or death explosion-heavy scenes from a summer blockbuster movie. Action is just characters physically doing something. If they're interacting with the external world they're acting, and that keeps the story moving. If they're thinking and describing what they plan to do, they're internal and not doing anything at all.
Try reworking any scenes that feel too internal with the characters thinking and musing instead of acting. Look for ways to dramatize those plans.

Bringing a story to life is all about making it real for readers. Half the fun of reading is figuring out what's going on and why the characters are behaving as they do. The more we explain those reasons, the less reason readers have to read our stories. But when we show characters acting in intriguing ways and readers have to work to figure out why--they can't stop turning the pages.


What do you struggle with in your writing? What's keeping your scenes from coming alive? 



For more on showing and not telling, check out my book, Understanding Show, Don't Tell (And Really Getting it), and learn what show, don't tell means, how to spot told prose in your writing, and why common advice on how to fix it doesn't always work. 

Today Seekerville is giving away an ecopy of Understanding Show, Don't Tell: (And Really Getting It) in honor of Janice's visit!   Winner announced in the Weekend Edition.


Janice Hardy is the award-winning author of The Healing Wars trilogy and the Foundations of Fiction series, including Planning Your Novel: Ideas and Structure, a self-guided workshop for planning or revising a novel, the companion Planning Your Novel Workbook, and Revising Your Novel: First Draft to Finished DraftShe's also the founder of the writing site, Fiction University. For more advice and helpful writing tips, visit her at www.fiction-university.com or @Janice_Hardy.

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165 comments :

  1. welcome to Seekerville, Janice. This is what we call "a workshop in a box" around here. So much to learn. (Note the print friendly icon).

    I am working my way through your new book and have shared it with others. It's like the Dummies Guide to Show Don't Tell. Me being the dummy.

    Thank you so much for being with us today!

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    1. Thanks so much for having me!

      I doubt you're a dummy :) Show, don't tell is a hard concept to grasp for most writers, no matter what their level. I struggled with it for years myself until I figured out how to look for it and what to do to fix it.

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    2. WOW.

      I teach a lesson on POV to children when I make school visits. THIS is just excellent! Thank you, Janice!!!

      Great info to augment the lesson. So much wisdom here!!

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  2. Hi Janice:

    Wow! Your comment that "Point of view (POV) is the silver bullet of writing. If you master this, 95% of the common writing problems a writer faces will vanish" sums up exactly what I've learn from years of studying the writing craft.

    In fact, the one book, of over 100, that I've read that I feel is the most important, the book I wish now that I had read three times before I read any other writing book is: "The Power Of Point Of View: Make Your Story Come To Life" by Alicia Rasley.

    There are at least nine different POVs. This book goes into all of them and when they are best used in various types of stories.

    While most writers are only going to use one or two of these POVs, knowing about all the others and when they are best used makes the few POVs we actually use far more understandable. It's like knowing other languages and having this knowledge help in understanding of how English works in a far deeper way than those who know no other language but their own.

    I agree with you so completely that I can't wait to read all your books. Could you tell us something about your fiction? I'd love to hear how you used POV in the "Healing Wars" series.

    Vince

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    1. Nice to meet another POV fan (or is that fanatic? hehe)

      I love a tight POV so I use first person. It allows me to focus on what's personal to my protagonist and guide the reader to what that character feels is important. It's also a great POV to use to misdirect readers (in a good way), because a first-person narrator doesn't always notice what she needs to, or see it the "right" way. So she can make the wrong assumptions or miss clues without it feeling forced.

      I'd always written in tight third before that book, but my protagonist just screamed at me to tell her story her way, and I discovered first person was my favorite POV :)

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  3. Wow Janice! I felt like I was sitting in a classroom this morning. Thank you so much for this post. It is definitely one for my keeper book.

    Many blessings,
    Cindy W.

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    1. Most welcome, glad you found it helpful :)

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  4. Janice, it's so nice to see you here at Seekerville! What a great post. I'm definitely keeping this!
    Thanks for stopping by and Merry Christmas!

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    1. Thanks, it's good to be here. Thanks for the warm welcome.

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  5. Good morning, JANICE! And welcome to Seekerville today. Thank you for sharing some FABULOUS tips--I'm definitely going to check out your book. This is a juicy KEEPER post for sure!

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  6. Hi Janice! So glad you're here because I have the opportunity to tell you how much your book, "Understanding Show, Don't Tell" helped me get into a deep POV for my manuscript. I REALLY got it! (Thanks Tina, for recommending it!) I downloaded it after getting feedback from a couple of writing contests I entered. Happily, I'm a finalist in both but a couple of judges commented on needing a deeper POV. Your book was so helpful.

    The narrative distance is interesting. Going to bookmark this for future reference!

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    1. Aw, thanks so much! You made my morning :) Grats on the finalists wins.

      Narrative distance is a big part of POV, so it's worth studying if you haven't already.

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  7. Thanks again, Janice, for sharing such good information! I hang out at your site a lot! :-) Merry Christmas!

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    1. Most welcome, and thanks! Nice to see some Fiction University folks here :)

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  8. Hi Janice! It's great to see you here. I love your blog and have been a lurker for years.
    This post will definitely be going into my Seekerville notebook...great stuff! Thank you for visiting.

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    1. Thanks! I love that you guys have Seekerville notebooks. That's delightful :)

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  9. Hello Janice, this is the area that I struggle with the most. I am always frustrated that I can't seem to wrap my mind around this concept. I will be printing off this article and would LOVE to win the book. God bless!

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    1. Many writers do, so you're not alone. It can be tough to make that final shift from telling the story to showing it, and I've found that often all it takes is the right example to finally make things click for a particular writer. Hopefully I've said something that clicks for you!

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  10. Welcome to Seekerville, Janice! I'm running late for work, so I'll have to come back tonight to read the full blog post. Just wanted to say I ordered "Understanding Show, Don't Tell" a few weeks ago, and I'm so excited to strengthen my writing using this great tool.

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    1. Thanks so much! I had a lot of fun writing that book, and it's by far my most poplar workshop (and book). Have fun at work!

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  11. Hi Janice! I recently read “Understanding Show, Don't Tell” (thank you, Tina!) and loved it. I was worried at first, because in my opinion (as an avid reader) sometimes deep POV and show-don’t-tell writing can seem almost robotic. But you did such an awesome job of explaining the importance of balance.

    The part where Bob is screaming because the zombie is clawing his leg (in the telling example) is how I usually write (and what I’m trying to change). But then you added the showing version: "The zombie clawed Bob's leg. He screamed."

    My first thought was, No. I hate it. I'll never be able to do this. I don’t want to write like this. I don’t want to read books written like this.

    And then you added these MAGIC WORDS, "This shows, but let's be honest, it's still just as boring." I was so relieved, and I totally trusted you from that moment on. Your next example was the perfect balance. I couldn’t wait to read the rest of the book. LOVED it, and learned so much. I can’t recommend it highly enough. Thanks again!

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    1. Laura, that's such a good point. Now I'm dying to read her book so I can see how she teaches to make it even better. :)

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    2. Most welcome! I'm so glad that resonated with you. That's exactly why this is so hard to both teach and understand--it's not about the rules but how to best get what's in your head onto the page in the best way for your story. And that changes book by book.

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  12. I love Laura Conner Kestner because she tells it like it is!!

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  13. JANICE, welcome to Seekerville. I loved your excellent, print-worthy tips on how to show, not tell! All of us, published or unpublished, need the reminder that the closer we bring our readers to our characters, the more they'll be engaged in the story and care about the characters.

    Those of us who write for Love Inspired can only use two points of view, which I think is a good thing as it keeps the reader guessing and hopefully turning pages. I think my biggest weakness with POV is the tendency to write too much introspection--the planning and evaluating the character is doing in his head. Thanks for making me even more aware that I need to keep the story in present time.

    Janet

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    1. Tina. The queen of introspection. Generally those things we spot in someone else's manuscript are the things we have issues with.

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    2. LOL, TINA, I'm sure that's true!

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    3. Janet, that happens to a lot of us, so don't fret :) Don't worry about it so much in a first draft, since knowing that introspection can be a good way to understand your characters. But on draft two, see how much of that you can cut and turn into action instead. For example, if she plans and evaluates in her head, trim it back to a few key thoughts and then show the *results* of those thoughts. Readers can see how she got there from her internalization, and you keep them interested by having her act while they figure out what she's doing and how it will turn out :)

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  14. Janice, you do a workshop on this? Do you ever do online classes? If so how would we keep apprised of them, so we can hop a plane and show up or sign up online.

    Sign up to get Janice's blog straight delivered daily via email. Do it now. Nuggets of writing wisdom to your in box. http://blog.janicehardy.com/

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    1. Thanks Tina. I signed up!

      Janet

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    2. I do at conferences, and my next show, don't tell workshop is in October at the Florida Writers Association conference in Altamonte Springs, FL.

      Nothing online yet, but online classes at my site are in the works. It's something I've been wanting to do for a while now, but I'm still working out the logistics.

      All workshops and classes (on and offline) will be on my site as soon as the details are finalized.

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  15. Janice, this is a wonderful workshop! I will definitely keep it. Your red flag words are especially helpful. I know I need better POV in the book I'm writing. Please enter me in the drawing.

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    1. Thanks! I love those red flag words. One of the hardest things about SDT is just knowing where it is! They won't catch it all, but they get a lot and they're a great way to train yourself om what to listen for.

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  16. This is a great article and a huge help with POV as I've struggled some with this! Please enter me in the drawing, would love to win this book:)

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  17. Janice, this is rich. I did not realize about "explaining motive" (she reached over to pick up the cup etc.). This is something I'm going to watch out for. When I started writing (and reading), it was the accepted practice to put "he thought" or "she thought" and then tell the reader what they were thinking. Nobody does that any more and with good reason, Deep POV is so much better.
    KB

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    1. That is something I have to really keep an eye out for, Kaybee. Distancing. She watched, she wondered are my personal favorites.

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    2. Whenever I write something like "she watched," I try to make sure there's a good reason for it, like needing to show how she watched.

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    3. Agree, Myra. You can break the rules, but it should be with intention and purpose.

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    4. Yay Myra, you can pretty much do anything with a REASON.

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    5. Thanks! Not everyone will be as picky about "to verb" as others, but that's my favorite example of explaining motive. It's so simple.

      You're right about the he thoughts. So many telling words and phrases fell out of style over the last few decades. Telling used to be the way to do it back when the "old masters" were writing :)

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  18. "She reached over and picked up the cup" - Gosh! one simple example that says so much. Thanks, Janice

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    1. Welcome, JC Martell! Glad you made it over. Yes. I mulled on that one phrase a long time.

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    2. Tina, thanks for the welcome. I'd follow Janice Hardy anywhere - and it's always nice to find a great new site. I've browsed, and I'll be back!

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    3. Aw, thanks JC! Always good to see you on my road trips :)

      That's my favorite motivational tell example :) It's one of the first things I show in the workshop, too.

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  19. Janice, what a great post!I loved your examples of telling and showing. I heard that it's okay to tell basic actions, for example. "She tied her shoe." Rather than explaining the step by step. Readers understand how to tie shoes. But we should always show emotion. Your example about the vase showed emotion. :) Loved this. I'm going to be looking for those areas where maybe my characters are thinking about doing something, as well as for those places where I can show and not tell.

    Such much meat here!

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    1. It's an excellent book. I was reading it on my Kindle at the Dr. office. Had my focus like a meaty novel. LOLOL. I might be disturbed. I really like good craft books and this is!

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    2. I agree, Tina! I love them too and have a huge collection.

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    3. This is good to know, ladies. :) A meaty novel...the very best kind!

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    4. Thanks!

      Tina, LOL I'm like you. I have shelves full of craft books, all highlighted and written in from years of study.

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  20. Excellent teaching post, Janice! So glad you could join us in Seekerville today!

    Single POV is one of the very first writing lessons that was hammered home to me--as I believe it should be for every writer. It still took me awhile to grasp "deep POV" and attempt to avoid words like "thought" and "felt."

    But, as LAURA mentioned above, it's all about balance. There are ways to vary sentence structure and word usage but still keep the POV up close and personal.

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    1. Thanks! It is. Whatever works, works, and we shouldn't be afraid to break a "rule" if that serves the story or serve the best. Sometimes you need a fluff word to capture the right rhythm in a sentence, or a cliche is exactly the right response for your character. trust your instincts!

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  21. Wonderful advice! Thanks, Janice!

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    1. Welcome to Seekerville, Carol. Hi to your kitty too.

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  22. Welcome, Janice! What a great post I loved this: "Writing the scene from inside a character's head allows readers to watch and guess why the characters are acting and how they feel. It makes them part of the story, not a spectator on the sidelines getting a detailed play by play of the action."

    A great way to explain something that's tough to understand! Thanks for sharing today.

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  23. As a newbe, I am trying to do everything properly, learning as I go along. Show don't tell is something I need more work on. Thanks for the great advice!

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    1. DuAnne, one of the first writing classes I took online was about POV. It was a huge help when I started out!

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    2. DuAnne! First, beautiful name. Welcome to Seekerville. Glad to have you.

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    3. Most welcome! It's a hard concept to grasp, so don't worry if it takes you a few tries :) I will recommend studying POV as much as you can though. For a newbie, that will serve you well and help you the most until you get a solid skill foundation built. Then you'll have the right tools to develop the more advanced techniques, and you'll pick those up much more easily.

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  24. Thanks for describing the show-don't-tell concept so well! You've taken it deeper than I've heard before. It's really helpful. Put my name in for the drawing!

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    1. Rachael! Great to see you here today. Your name is in!

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    2. Thanks! I had a lot of fun going that deep. :)

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  25. Oh, my goodness. It just hit me that I think I use "tried" a good bit. So I've been telling when I didn't realize it! Thanks for pointing this out, Janice.

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    1. They do sneak in :) It's not always a telling word, but it's a good one to watch out for to make sure it's saying what you want it to say.

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  26. Hey, JANICE, WELCOME TO SEEKERVILLE!!

    And I totally agree with Tina -- "the Queen of Introspection" -- that this is, indeed, a "workshop in a box"!

    Laughed when I read this line: "And don't forget--"action" doesn't mean the life or death explosion-heavy scenes from a summer blockbuster movie. Action is just characters physically doing something."

    Primarily because if Tina is the Queen of Introspection, then Mary is the Queen of Action, and I always feel drab in my openings when compared to her. But then I don't have much call for runaway stagecoaches or raging rivers in my books. So you assuaged my guilt on this -- THANK YOU! ;)

    SOOOO many good points in the is post, my friend, so thanks for your invaluable expertise.

    Hugs,
    Julie

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    1. Thanks! It's great advice to "start with the action," but that makes far too many writers think they need that runaway stagecoach. Charlotte's Web is a good example of action that isn't action-y--"Where is Papa going with that axe?" is a great way to start with something VERY compelling going on. It's a simple day at the farm, but that question launches the "action" and draws readers right in.

      Action is just "make readers want to know what's going on".

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  27. KAYBEE SAID: "When I started writing (and reading), it was the accepted practice to put "he thought" or "she thought" and then tell the reader what they were thinking. Nobody does that any more and with good reason, Deep POV is so much better."

    Agreed, deep POV is so much better, but I must be a rebel because at least once or twice in a book, I feel the need to include a "he thought" or "she mused" somewhere throughout the pages, so there is some poor somebody who still does it, I'm afraid, but fortunately not often. ;)

    Hugs,
    Julie

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    1. Not at all, Julie. There are no black and whites with writing. I think Janice would agree and says so in her book. There are times when telling is appropriate.

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    2. Julie, sometimes I still use "wondered" because it just fits.

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    3. Julie is right too, sometimes you gotta write what you gotta write.

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    4. There's nothing wrong with using he thought if the sentence calls for it. If you're writing in a medium or far narrative distance, it's the norm, but even in a tight POV it can be useful in the right circumstance.

      If the sentence reads better or the scene works better without it, cut it. But if it adds to the sentence or scene and makes it better or clearer with it, keep it.

      It's also a matter of personal preference. Some people just like a little distance between narrator and reader, even in first person.

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    5. Aw, thanks, guys, for the support! But ... does that mean I have to turn in my rebel badge??? ;)

      Hugs,
      Julie

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  28. This is a wonderful post. Thank you, Janice! Definitely one to read again. :)

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  29. Love this post! I'm printing it and hanging it on my wall to use as a reference. Thanks for the great information!

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    1. Buy the book, LeAnne. It's even better.

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  30. I am soaking up this advice Janice. I struggle quite a bit with too much telling. Thanks for the tips. Don't enter me in the giveaway because I just purchased a copy of your book.

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  31. First person POV is not one I like, but would love to read your novel and see if it's different than ones I've read! Thanks for visiting Seekerville

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    1. Marianne, I used to say across the board that first person was not for me, until I met a few books that did it so well I forgot it was first person.

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    2. Thanks! Hopefully it works better for you than others have (but if not, that's okay) :)

      I hadn't planned to write it in first person. I always wrote in a tight third before that, by Nya knew what she wanted to say and I couldn't stop her :) Now I'm a big fan of that POV.

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  32. Wherever Janice goes, her fans follow and look, a great new blog resource.

    As always, thank you Janice for all you do!

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    1. Cordia Pearson! Welcome to Seekerville, Janice fan. Great to have you~!

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    2. Aw, thanks so much, Cordia! Always fun to see you on the road as well :)

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  33. Hi Janice
    wow! just wow...

    I learned so much from this post and would love to be in the draw for your book. I definitely need work on POV and not telling. (my last crit showed me that). That narrative distance information is golden for me. THANKS!!!!!!!!!!

    I like first person stories. There's an author (Garon Whited) who does this so well and I adore his heroes. He rocks the first person POV.

    Of course, I love all the Seeker books too, so maybe I'm equal opportunity for POV stuff. Not sure which works best for me. Hmmmm...

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    1. Equal Opp. POV reader! Love that, DebH!

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    2. A great story is a great story, no matter how the author writes it. we all have preferences, but the story is what matters.

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  34. This is excellent! Using POV well is one of my weakest areas as a writer. Scratch that, one of my biggest growth opportunities ;)

    I'm filing this post for future reference!

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    1. Your name is in the hat for the book, Megan. It's terrific~

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    2. Yes! Growth opportunity, I love that. The perfect attitude for a writer :) That's how I feel about revision, actually. An opportunity to make the story better.

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  35. Thank you Janice and thank you Seekerville. This is another shining example of what a wonderful resource this site is and truly how giving and helpful writers are. Janice, I absolutely devoured this post (seems to be happening a lot here). Thank you. Your examples were perfectly clear. I feel energized!

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    1. It's a goldmine, isn't it, Kelly Blackwell??

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    2. Thanks Kelly! I'm so impressed by the Seekers here myself :) what a great group!

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  36. Janice! What a delight to see you here at Seekerville! Your books, the website and its list of online resources, the wonderful faculty there ... it's all terrific guidance, enlightenment and encouragement. Thank you for all the giving!

    No need to enter me in the drawing :-)

    Nancy C

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    1. Thanks so much, and you are moist welcome. Hearing I've helped my fellow writers makes it all worthwhile :) So glad you like the "here's more" links! There's so much information on the site, and I want to make it as easy as possible to find what you need.

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  37. P.S. Janice -- thanks for the "here's more on ..." links in the blog posts. Every post is like attending a mini-workshop.

    Nancy C

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    1. Nancy C is a super fan? Possibly the head of the Janice Hardy fan club?

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  38. Janice, thank you so much for being with us today! It's great to have you over here.

    I'm late getting here today.... but I brought homemade chocolate chip cookies to make up for my earlier absence!

    And fresh coffee!!!!

    Now let's see what's been goin' on!

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    1. Cookies make up for almost anything :) You are forgiven, hehe.

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  39. I tend to like first person POV if it's done really well... Deb Smith in "Sweet Hush"... a lot of YA books with fantasy.... Erich Segal's "Love Story".... which is not a great book, but like so many emotionally driven stories, he did a great first person POV (male, also, extra points!) that captured the reader's hearts.

    And I think that's where your narrative distance comes in. I've never heard that term, so I'm learning here with the rest!

    The least distance created between the emotional journey of the characters and the readers is always my goal... so it doesn't matter what we call it, what matters is the thought-provoking emotion.

    Either way, lovely explanation today!

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    1. I think a lot of writers use narrative distance instinctively without realizing what it is. It's not a term that's used as often as the others.

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  40. Janice, so nice to have you with us today! I signed up for your Fiction U blog. Looks like a power-packed site!

    You had me at showing the intent of my characters, instead of the actual action! Something I haven't thought about before. Now I'm eager to go over my WIP and find all the "intents!" Thanks for a really interesting and useful tip!

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    1. Great, great blog, Debby. Yes. I am eager to apply what I learned here and in the book.

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    2. Most welcome! The intent is everything, and it's so easy to shift that outside the character. To us it sounds normal because we know what they do, even if they don't truly do it.

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  41. Super helpful. Thanks for pointing out these problem areas. I am struggling with narrative distance in one story for sure. The MC is a rather stoic man and is hard to get the reader to connect with him. I am interested in this book. Thanks.

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    1. You are in Linda Truesdell, which reminds me you won something in the weekend edition. Check when you have time.

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    2. Saw it finally. Busy weekend. Thanks for the reminder. You gals are the greatest.

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    3. Linda, you might try playing more with subtext and body language for him. Let readers see how he feels without him saying anything. If they can see the subtle signs of emotion under his stoic exterior, they'll know he does feel, but holds back. Internalization can also help, as he can think about how he feels even if he refuses to show it.

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  42. Janice, these three ideas are eye-opening! I use two POV characters, and I'm comfortable that I use the two view points correctly, but I can go deeper by using your advice. As I revise, I'll watch for narrative distance and character intention rather than action. Thank you for explaining these points so well! I'll be adding your book to my wish list....just in time for Christmas. 😊

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  43. Update: For 3.99, gifting can come early! I just purchase my cooy...thanks to hubby who always wants gift ideas...and doesn't mind if I get an early present. Thanks for visiting Seekerville, Janice.

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    1. Thanks so much, I hope you enjoy it and learn a lot :)

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  44. Janice, great blog. I'm going to keep this resource handy. Sometimes I write boring and sloppy and inevitably have to go back and work on these kinds of things even though, mostly, I consider them lessons learned.

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    1. Anything goes in a first draft, so don't fret. Sloppy and boring is just as legitimate as clean and exciting, as long as you spend the next draft improving :) If your process is a messy rough draft to get it on the paper, that's totally okay.

      For example, my first drafts have very sloppy flat characters, because I learn who they are during a first draft. I have to put them in a scene and see what they do to get to know them. But on draft two, I revise with that discovered (and developed) personality.

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  45. It's THE STORM!!!! SO GREAT TO SEE LARA BACK IN SEEKERVILLE!!!

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    1. Thanks. I've been busy in Scribes :-). Almost done and then lots of revisions in store.

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  46. Janice, this is one of the best explanations of show, don't tell I've ever read. Please toss my name in the hat for a copy of your book! Thanks!

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  47. JANICE, as a reader I appreciate an author who pulls me into the story with imagery and strong characters.

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  48. Thanks for this awesome post. Any time anyone gives more information on show, don't tell, I'm there.

    I struggle with emotion in the first draft, and usually have to layer it in on the edits. I also have to pull back from harsh first draft hero and heroines. Sometimes I make them too extreme, and my critique partner (and the advantage of reading it a couple of weeks later) helps me see where I need to pull back and make them more likable. That might be more than you wanted to know about my first drafts! But a huge thank you on advice about how to go deeper into POV.

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    1. I LOVE hearing about other writers' processes. I talk to so many, and often find them struggling with something and feeling like they're the only ones who do that or have that problem. Knowing other writers who face the same issues makes them feel better.

      First drafts are for brain dumping, so don't worry about yours or what form it takes. Whatever you need to do to get the idea down works for you :) The second draft is where the work starts, lol.

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  49. Totally with you there, Tanya. I tend to make mine too nice. I need to dig deep and make them REAL.

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  50. Hi, sorry I'm late, crazy hectic day. Iv'e been so bust with college and babysitting my brothers (full body shudder- one brother literally climbed into a box and put the lid on and began screaming at the top of his lungs and this was, you know, one of those boxes where they have all the warnings saying NOT to climb inside because you could die by like, suffocation- ugh!)

    Anyway I generally write in first person and I would say that it is probably pretty closely related as you are looking at the story through a (insert my main character's name here) tinted glass. But you say you shouldn't have words like realize, but what if the words is used with adverbs like: realized with a shock?

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    1. What a fun life you have, Nicky! LOL

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    2. Sounds like you have great material for a MG novel! hehe

      "Realized with a shock" would feel told to me on a few levels, because not only are you telling me she realized something, you're explaining the result of that (she felt shocked).

      For example:

      He's the killer, she realized with a shock, vs. I sucked in a breath. Cinnamon on his coat, just like I'd seen scattered over John's body.

      One tells what happened and why, the others shows clues that let the reader figure out by observation that she's realized something that shocked her.

      Does that make it clearer?

      Realize is one of those words that falls in the gray area. Saying "she realized she loved him" can feel told and distant, because readers don't see her figuring that out--especially in a tight POV.

      Showing the emotions that trigger that realization usually feel more shown and immediate. Her chest tightens at the thought of losing him, she laughs at something silly he did that always annoyed her when other guys did it, a sudden rush of adrenaline when he touches her, etc. You can show the results of love and then have her then, "Am I in love with him? Yikes!" (or whatever she'd think).

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  51. Janice, this was so good! I'm still learning the showing vs telling rules. I struggle with ways to say "look" "gaze" "glimpse" "peer" creative ways to say that.

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    1. In most cases you don't need any of the "look" words. If the POV character says "A blue wagon sat by the fence" we know she saw it. You don't need "She saw a blue wagon sitting by the fence."

      If the act of looking, peering, or glimpsing is important (such as, peering in a window has a different feel than looking) than it's fine to use them. But if what's seen is more important than how it's seen, you can usually drop the "look" word.

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  52. Tanya, I understand that! I've been told I'm good at writing snarky but that's not good for heroines.

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  53. Hi Janice:

    I really like the 'weak POV' vs 'strong POV' better than talk of 'telling' vs 'showing'. The latter is too confusing because all 'showing' requires 'telling' in order to show -- that is unless you are shooting a movie. Then you can show without telling.

    For example:

    Weak POV: Sara was so upset that John forgot their anniversary that she threw a vase at him.

    Strong POV: Sara heaved the vase at John's head. "Does twelve years mean nothing to you?"


    Even in the strong POV you are telling the reader what Sara did and said. Oddly enough the best approach may be to switch the common meanings. That is: the weak POV, telling, is the Direct approach -- where the writer directly informs the reader what she wants the reader to know. The strong POV, showing, is the Indirect approach -- where the writer indirectly tries to inform the reader what she wants the reader to know (that is, that Sara is angry and emotional).

    The strong, showing, indirect approach always is open to being missed by the reader and thus can be more ambiguous.

    I like the direct/indirect approach of explaining this as I believe it does not use 'telling' in two different instantiations.

    I hope this makes sense as I feel you are an expert in that you wrote a whole book on this one topic. I'd value you views on this.

    Vince

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    1. I like that analysis. Direct and indirect works well to convey showing and telling. Thanks!

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  54. A very informative post. I will have to get this book!
    Jan

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    1. It will be more than worth the purchase, Janet Kerr. BTW, great to see you here!

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  55. Wow! I may have gotten more concrete, useful info from this post than I have in my last two writing courses. Thanks!

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    1. Kayte CookWatts! Welcome to Seekerville. A terrific post for sure!

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    2. Aw, thanks so much! That makes my day :)

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  56. Thanks so much for these useful writing strategies!

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  57. Wow, what a helpful post! POV seems like such an easy concept until I pick up my pencil (well, hit the keys). Thank you for such practical advice.

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    1. I hear that :) I can still remember the day (oh so long ago) when POV clicked for me. I'd gotten a great crit back, and my friend had asked about something I'd written. I'd said "She saw the rowboat tied to the dock." My friend asked, did she know the rowboat was there or was she seeing it for the first time? Because "the" rowboat suggests known information, while "a" rowboat suggests a first viewing.

      I totally got it after that :) POV is showing what's KNOWN to a character.

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  58. This is great! I'm always trying to take my readers deeper into the character's POV.

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    1. Thanks! Hope this helps you do just that :)

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  59. I'm in the middle of a new WIP and find these tips a great reminder. I'm still in the rough draft stage so getting it right here makes for less rework later. I'd love a copy of your e-book.

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    1. It does, but rough drafts are allowed to be rough :)

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  60. Janice, I've been reading your blog since I first started writing fiction five years ago. You're one of the most outstanding writing teachers out there.

    Another great post on a vital subject I can never read enough of! Glad you're finding a whole new audience here...

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  61. Hi Janice, So sorry I missed you yesterday as we had an emergency. All ok now. Yay. Looks like you had a great day. I hope you enjoyed Seekerville. We thank you for posting and giving us such great info. Blessings.

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    1. Glad to hear everything is okay. I had a blast chatting with the Seekers. Thanks so much for having me over :)

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