Friday, September 17, 2010

Give Us an Anchor

Okay, before I forget. This weekend there a HUGE, massive author signing event happening at Barnes and Noble in Orem. (330 East 1300 South, University Crossings Plaza, Orem, UT) This event goes from 1-4 pm. AuthorPalooza = 40+ authors (including yours truly), lots of books, bookish-type fans and bloggers, bookmarks and treats. Come check us out and buy some autographed books. You know you want to.

New topic:

The other day I was helping my daughter with her creative writing homework. She was having an issue with pronouns and split infinitives, and we ended up in a discussion about how stories have to be clear. You can’t just expect people to assume that the super hero is a good super hero unless you say so. Unless you tell the readers he is actually punching the villain as opposed to the elderly lady the SH is supposed to be saving.

This discussion included me asking her something like fifty questions about her 500 word story. What was the old lady doing while this happened? Where is this happening? Are there other people around? Witnesses maybe? What do the main characters look like? How do they feel? What are they thinking? What happens next? What are the consequences to the actions of the hero? The lady? The villain?

Her answers continued to be a baffled, “I don’t know.” To which I then replied, “Well, if you’re going to write a story about these people, you should.”

Or she would answer, “The old lady is running away, of course. Everyone knows that.”

I had to explain, “No, everyone doesn’t know that. Not unless you tell them. That’s your job as the storyteller.”

Short lesson of the day. Just because we—as writers or authors—see things happening a certain way in our heads, doesn’t mean our readers understand that vision. It’s up to us to paint a clear picture of setting, characterization, and plot. Good writing requires that the readers feel anchored and secure within the pages of your book.

So. Do you agree? Disagree? Think I’m nuts? Discuss.

8 comments:

Sara B. Larson said...

Yep, you're nuts. Ha ha, jk. ;) Definitely a good point, the trick is accomplishing that goal without "telling" your reading. It has to be (at least mostly) through showing. That is what marks a truly great author.

Sara B. Larson said...

I meant "reader" not "reading." Sigh...

lotusgirl said...

totally agree. You have to tell the reader what's going on. You don't have to bludgeon them to death with the telling, but you do have to show them what you see.

ali said...

As last night's crit session proved, sometimes we take too much for granted, for sure. Great lesson Nichole!

Angie said...

Oh, I agree. If it's not clear to the reader, it's not the readers fault. It's my fault! I hope to see you Saturday.

L.T. Elliot said...

I totally agree. Even not describing clearly enough--with those questions answered--can sometimes be a problem.

p.s. I took my hubby to lunch today and we drove behind you and your cute car! I would have honked or waved but I didn't want to be all stalkerish. ;)

WindyA said...

On the flip side, sometimes we writers totally overthink it! But that's great that you planted the seeds about how "not everyone knows" because it's true!

Nichole Giles said...

You're right, Sara. Definitely important to show, not tell. It's tricky tricky tricky.

Thanks for the comments, all.