When you tell a story, it’s easy to slip into a mode of communication I call overview. This is when you say what happened, but without most of the story element. Jack liked going to bars to meet women, and sometimes they’d talk to him, but mostly he would go home empty handed. That is overview. I think it’s tempting to write that way because the movies have a form of this called montage, where the passing of time is sped up, someone ages, or a pattern of behavior is revealed, and then time gets back to normal and here we are in the future. But in the movies, you actually see the character doing stuff.
For prose, the best way to reveal important elements of your story is through dialogue, where characters talk to each other. But dialogue also includes revealing blocking. The two or three characters can’t just sit there. They have to do something while they talk. There are subtle ways to reveal their emotions or motivations, like tapping, or pacing, or building or destroying something.
In action scenes, where someone is doing something that moves the plot forward, you typically need dialogue to help explain or support the actions.
And in inner dialogue, the reader gets the intimate thoughts of the Point of View character. Too little of this breaks the flow. Too much bores the reader. This can be a good mode for transitional scenes. Jack drove his Buick away from the bar. He’d struck out again. Maybe he needed to chew on a mint. Or maybe Martha was right. Maybe he should finally call her.
It takes more effort to write scenes directly, and stay with the story in real time. But your story will be much more readable than an overview.
There are probably 23 quintillion books about writing. I have a stack of them on my shelves. You probably do, too. I have begun to wonder if the writing world could use one more.
My idea is to not only explain the modes of writing, but to display them in samples.
I just got an idea for a new story, so I jotted down a few sentences to myself. What if a novelist started with that as a first chapter, and commented on that mode of writing, then wrote the outline for this story as chapter two, with comments. Each stage of the writing process would be a new chapter or section. The final chapter or section would be the finished product and the author’s editorial notes on it.
Would a book like that tempt you to buy it?
Has this been done before?
I would ask a handful of successful independent authors to pen a page about how they successfully marketed their books, too. I wonder if Joe Konrath or Hugh Howey would help with that. I’d ask some authors I know, too!
I may have joined the 21st Century today. I’m using Sky Drive to share my pictures and documents between my various computers.
I have various computers, too.
Hug a veteran today, America. My oldest son is in the Navy. My best friend is a vet. My dad and step dad are both vets.
My mother passed away a week ago tomorrow, after a two year fight with pancreatic cancer. She was a feisty one. She’d had a heart attack, three back surgeries, and the cancer, and yet she kept pushing forward.
She was a relentless genealogical researcher, and found family traces back four centuries. She also located her two long lost brothers, whom her birth mother had given up when they were babies. The first passed away (also from cancer) just after she reached him in about 1983. The second she found just recently, before she passed. She never got to meet them.
She loved writing, although she didn’t have much of a formal education. But that didn’t slow her down. She used to write articles for the local newspaper in Oregon City, before they closed. It is now a parking lot.
And she loved to paint and etch.
She wasn’t the greatest mother when my sisters and I were kids. She had a nasty temper and shared it with us often. But when someone close to you passes, you focus on the positives. I’ve wondered for a long time what I would say if I was asked to give her eulogy. For a long time I held on to some of the things about her that made me angry. But now that she’s gone, I realize why we say the nicest things about people when they die.
We want to take the best of who they were with us on our journey, and leave the negatives in history.
Self publishing is like trying to stay afloat in a sea of authors, trying to breathe and get noticed.
Traditional publishing is like crawling through a desert, hoping to find a sip of water.