writing better

The truth about PLOT and STORY

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My eyes have been opened! I just watched a YouTube video from Just Write called “What Writers Should Learn From The Lord Of The Rings” and what he says about plot and story is amazing!

He talks about the difference between plot and story and includes things like the character arc in his definition of story. He says that they are separate and that in The Lord of the Rings, the climax for each of them comes at a different point in the film. I won’t try to explain all the details here. Just watch the video for yourselves. It knocked my socks off. It also explains why there’s such a long ending.

I think that this is a really important thing to understand if you want to write good fiction.

Here is the link:

What Writers Should Learn From The Lord Of The Rings

I hope you find it as interesting as I did and I hope this has been helpful to you.

 

Please check out some of the helpful tutorials for authors here at TechSavvyAuthor.net.

Said is NOT dead

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I hear people on the Internet, especially on YouTube, say that their English teachers had told them that “Said is dead”, meaning, don’t use the word “said” when writing a novel or short story. I don’t remember my teachers saying that specifically, but they did insist that we use more “interesting” words to describe speech. I’d never really thought too much of it until recently.

A few AuthorTubers were talking about this and saying that it’s okay to use said. In fact, they’re saying that if you do use it, it kind of floats to the background and your readers don’t really notice it. It’s almost invisible, which is a good thing. I thought that what they’re saying made sense, but it wasn’t until I picked up a book written by someone who had used anything but “said” that I realised exactly how much it changes your writing.

I found myself noticing every word they used. Replied, reciprocated, insisted, intoned, argued, countered, retorted, interjected… the list goes on. The first things I noticed was that it didn’t feel natural and it didn’t fit with the style of the writing. The next thing I noticed was that it started to really annoy me. “Said” would have been better than most of the words used.

Sure, there may be instances where you need to make sure your readers know how something was said, and that’s fine. Use another word. But “said” and “asked” are quite adequate for most things.

Although, if you write, “GET OUT OF MY HOUSE!”, you don’t need to write ‘Sarah yelled’ afterwards.

Another thing you can do so that your writing isn’t full of he said, she said: Try to use an action rather than just telling the reader that someone spoke.

For example, instead of this:

“Are you coming to the mall with me?” asked Mary.

“Um, I don’t know,” said Jill.

“We could go to that shoe shop where the cute guy works and then we could get a smoothie,” said Mary.

“Okay, I’ll get my purse!” exclaimed Jill.

Use this:

Mary strode into the living room. “Are you coming to the mall with me?”

Jill cringed. She didn’t want to go, but didn’t want to upset Mary. “Um, I don’t know.”

“We could go to that shoe shop where the cute guy works,” Mary insisted as she twirled a lock of her hair around her finger, “and then we could get a smoothie.”

A devilish smile spread across Jill’s lips. “Okay, I’ll get my purse!”

Which example sounds more interesting?

On a side note, when writers say “Said Mary” instead of “Mary said”, it rubs me the wrong way. To my mind, the books I read in primary school when I was learning to read would use “Said Mary”, so it makes the writing sound childish. And it seems to sound worse when written in the present tense. Or maybe that’s just me.

Is it just me? Or does this bother you too? Let me know in the comments below. Or tell me if you think “said” is dead.

 

Please check out some of the helpful tutorials for authors here at TechSavvyAuthor.net.

What Do They Mean by “Show, Don’t Tell”?

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As writers, we constantly get told to “Show, don’t tell”. Now that’s easy for them to say, but what does that even mean? How do we “show” something? How do we know that we are “telling” instead? It’s all too confusing. I’ll try to explain, because I didn’t have a clue what they were on about.

When you “tell”, it means that you are giving too much info in terms of things like emotions. If you say that your character felt sad, you’re giving it a name and feeding that exact emotion to the reader, but being told doesn’t have the same effect as “showing” them. The way to “show” the reader what your character is feeling is to NOT give it a name. Describe the feeling instead. For example:

Telling:

I felt sad.

Showing:

Tears stung my eyes and I tried to swallow past the lump in my throat.

I hope you can see how much more interesting it is when you don’t just spoon-feed your readers. If you show them, they feel things more deeply and it is easier for them to imagine themselves in that situation. Give them room to make up their own mind about what your character is feeling.

Below is a more in-depth example to illustrate my point. I hope it’s helpful to you.

Telling:

I walked into the room and saw my boyfriend kissing another girl. I felt very angry. He tried to explain, but I screamed at him and ran out of the room.

Showing:

I pushed the door open and saw my boyfriend standing with his lips stuck to another girl’s mouth and one hand up the front of her top.

I froze. Adrenalin shot through my body and I couldn’t breathe. They broke apart and turned to look at me. There was no air in the room. My face felt cold, like all the blood had rushed to my feet.

“Cassy! I – I can explain!”

I somehow found my voice. “You bastard! How could you?”

My voice trembled and I felt the heat rise inside me, spreading to every limb and up to my face. I couldn’t be here. I had to leave. Had to get out. I turned and ran out of the room, ignoring his calls for me to stop.

As I ran, I noticed that my palms were hurting and realised that I’d clenched my fists so hard that I’d dug my fingernails into the skin. I didn’t stop to see if I’d drawn blood.

Which one did you like best? The Showing or the Telling?

Are there places in your writing that could be improved by showing and not telling? Are there any examples in your writing or in your favourite book that you’d like to share? Put them in the comments below.