• From: "Bruce L. Cook, www.author-me.com" <cookcomm@xxxxxxx>
  • To: <authorme@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Tue, 31 Jul 2001 20:14:26 -0500

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In this issue...

        WRITE WITH INTEGRITY - Opinion by Bruce Cook
        WRITING ASSIGNMENT - Ending Your Epic

        Visit our Home Page. It changes often. www.AuthorMe.com!



     Show, Don't Tell. Yeah, that sounds easy, but what, exactly, does
show mean?

        Let's look at an example: Carey ate breakfast, then he took a
shower and went to the store. At the store he met a girl, and they
talked for a long time. Carey liked her, but she blew him off. Then he
went home.

        Tells you a lot about Carey, huh? Okay -- so this example is
really exaggerated, but it hits home the necessity of showing and not
telling. What can we do to fix it? We need more detail, most especially
dialogue and action.
        Carey studied the frozen dinners. He'd had turkey and dressing
for the last four days, so Salisbury steak would be good for a change.
But did he want the Big Man's or just the regular?

        A scent teased his nose. Not the overwhelming smell of fish and
frostbite, but a fresh smell, like the smell of skin just out of the
shower. He glanced sideways and saw the most perfect arm he'd ever seen
in his life. Long, slender, graceful, full of sinewy muscle and smooth
skin. His eyes followed the arm to the shoulder and then the head. Her
head. A head covered with long blond hair and containing a face that
made his heart stop.

        "Hi," she said, her voice rich and melodious.

        Carey's mouth didn't work. He tried to return her greeting, but
only a grunt came out. He tried to smile politely, but his face erupted
with a grin as large and toothy and goofy as a cartoon character's ...

        So now you have the idea. We need details. We need to know
thoughts, feelings; we need to smell the perfume, taste the wine, feel
the cashmere. Anything less cheats the reader from experiencing our
imaginary world. We also get into the "show, don't tell" problem in less
apparent ways. For example, in description. Mary was a pretty girl, with
blue eyes and blond hair. That is telling. Consider: Mary's blue eyes
glistened with joy, her blond hair bouncing with each step. That is

        Instead of saying Molly is a wonderful person, say Molly is
always there when anyone needs her. She's the first to arrive with a
casserole when someone is sick, the first to send a note of
encouragement to those who are troubled, the first to offer a hug to
anyone -- man, woman or child -- at anytime.

        Instead of saying Sam is a talented musician, let us hear the
crowds cheer, let us feel his passion. Take us into his head as he
strokes the piano keys:

        Consummation of the soul. That's what Sam called the
gratification he received from music. When his passion became so intense
it begged to be satisfied, pleaded to be released, and he was helpless
to resist its urges. When his fingers assumed a life of their own,
titillating the ivory keys with the complex music of Bach and Mozart and
Beethoven, and he became one with the cadence, breathing with the
crescendos, his fingers caressing the melody, until everything else
faded, everything else disappeared, and only the music existed.

        Instead of saying Marci is a spoiled child, let us hear that
whine. Let us -- never mind. Just offer her some cheese to go with her
whine and forget it. I really don't want to hear it.

        Dialogue is another area where we have the opportunity to show
or to tell. "I love you," she crooned. "I love you, too," he sputtered.
And I cringe. First, using creative dialogue tags (crooned, sputtered)
is one of my pet peeves, and the topic of a tips page. Second, it is
cheap. It is telling, not showing. Let the power of your dialogue and
the accompanying action show your reader the tone of voice and the
emotion, don't tell them. Consider: "I love you," she said, her voice
smooth as her fingers massaged his Rolex. "Love you, too," he said. His
glassy eyes roved over her naked body, his mouth too wet and limp to
form words properly.

        You can't tell us someone is a wonderful person, a talented
musician or a spoiled child. We won't believe you. You must show us.
Throughout your manuscript, look for any opportunity to show us in real
time, to act out, to let us feel. The difference will amaze you.

        (c) copyright 1999 by Sandy Tritt. All rights reserved, except
for those listed here. May be reproduced for educational purposes (such
as for writer's workshops), as long as this copyright notice and the
url: http://tritt.wirefire.com are distributed with the pages. For use
in conferences or other uses not mentioned here, please contact Sandy
Tritt at tritt@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx for permission and additional resources
at no or limited charge.

            Keep writing!

                Sandy Tritt=20



WRITE WITH INTEGRITY - Opinion by Bruce Cook

        This review compares two books.=A0 One book demonstrates integrity
while the other just talks about it.

1. We Were the Mulvaneys, by Joyce Carol Oates (Oprah=92s Book Club

        This book chronicles events in a family=92s tragic decline from
civic prominence and respectability. In many ways, it reflects problems
suffered by families where success leads to a departure from traditional
values, and inevitably a fall.

        The story is painful, filling the reader with anxiety heightened
by the author=92s skillful use of forewarnings. If integrity is the =
the reader comes away with sharp contrasts among well defined

        One cannot read this story without reflecting upon one=92s own
family history and personal goals. The story=92s family reunion =
highlights conflict. And, overall, the book creates a reading experience
which can only help a reader feel more committed to decency and

2. Protect and Defend, by Richard North Patterson (Random House)

        This book stands in stark contrast to Oates=92 work. In many ways
it suggests that literature may follow the path of popular journalism:
away from reflecting social reality and toward activist management of
social reality.

        If you like campaign signs like =93Vote for Wilson=94 or =93Re-elect
Patterson,=94 you will love this book. If, however, you like to think =
yourself, buy another.

        In the typical peer-driven desire to join a political in-group,
Patterson has climbed on a hobby horse he knows will attract the icons.
=93I am one with you,=94 his book seems to cry out in a plaintive =
that begs for acceptance.=A0 (No problem, Dick. You=92re in. Now wasn't =

        How contrived and predictable - creating characters to match
what members of the political in-group are supposed to believe. Here
characters from the political =93in-group=94 have no flaws, but those =
disagree with them are flawed. And the writer has enough skill to fill
readers with disdain for the flawed characters, manipulating the readers
so they will vote with the political insiders.

        No surprise, though, is it? Ten years ago fiction publishers
began adding new categories to their subject lists published in =
Market and elsewhere. =93We are one with you!=94 they were saying to the
political in-groups, or more specifically activist associations, which
evidently had threatened to criticize them. Investigate for yourself.
Just compare their subject listings between 1988 and 1996, for example.=20

        If the publishers ignored new writers =96 and they did =96then the
only way to get noticed was to create something the publishers could use
to proclaim their own political purity. Patterson did. Now he=92s in. =
for Patterson. Cheers.

        Big deal.

        Writers, please avoid this weakness. You can make it on your
own. Have some pride. Show your integrity.

        Bruce Cook



        This month we finally finish the epic. It's about time, you
might say. If you have developed deep and meaningful characters, you
will have pangs of separation when you let them go.=20

        Far from feeling a mechanical sense of completion, you will turn
away from the keyboard with regret when you finish. And, depending upon
the outcome, you may weep for the characters.

        Here you tie the bundle together. Resolve the unresolved story
strings that matter. Let the reader know, without a doubt, how it all
came out.

        So, for your assignment, write me "Chapter - The Last" and send
it along. For those of you who have been writing a continuing saga,
package it up and send it along. We'll offer words of encouragement and
put you on the road to completion (and, hopefully, print publication).

        See how easy that was?

        We look forward to receiving your submission. Mail to:


        Thank you!



Attend the Holistic Writer Workshop


Inspiration for Writers:



If [you] can continue to send me more useful information of any sort
pertaining to writing it would be greatly appreciated. Your March
newsletter has already been of a good deal of help to me.=A0
                        Thank you,
                        Dave Fox


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Publishing New Writers, August, 2001 (no.208)

Editor Bruce L. Cook, P.O. Box 451, Dundee, IL 60118 USA.  Fax (847)

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