Writer’s Tip: Writing Effective Sentences

writing-1024x692Sentences—if the plot is the backbone of a story, then sentences are the muscles and tendons keeping it glued together. Unfortunately, writing solid sentences isn’t easy for everyone. As Human beings, we don’t speak the same way we write. Unless you do a lot of writing, you may have trouble putting together even the simplest of sentences. The last time you took a good look at a sentence and broke it down into it’s individual parts was probably around 3rd grade. Don’t worry—I’m here to help.

There’s More Than One Type of Sentence

There are (roughly) four different types of sentences, and we’re going to get into each of the different types (with examples!).

Simple Sentences – This is a sentence in it’s truest form. A simple sentence is the statement of a single idea in a direct, clear way. Most simple sentences contain less than 20 words, but it is best if you keep your word count average below 12 WPS (words per sentence). Longer sentences are possible, but the longer the sentence is, the harder it is to follow. Example: My coffee cup is blue.

Complex SentencesA complex sentence is a simple sentence with one or two dependent clauses added on to expand or clarify what is being said. The first half of the complex sentence is actually a simple sentence in disguise, where the second half of the sentence is the dependent clause. Complex sentences are still limited to a single idea. Be careful of these—it’s easy to go overboard and add in redundancies and needless explanations that will weaken your writing. Try not to exceed 20 words. Example: My coffee cup is blue, which is also my favorite color.

Compound Sentences – Compound sentences are sentences made out of more than one idea that could otherwise have been separate simple sentences.  Try not to let compound sentences exceed 25 words. Example: My coffee cup is blue, and my desk is black.

Convoluted Sentences – Convoluted sentences are sentences that ramble on far longer than they need to. They often consist of several simple sentences connected with excessive explanation and asides. For the most part, you want to avoid these at all costs. Example: My coffee cup is blue, which is also my favorite color, and sits atop my desk, which  is black, right next to an empty can of Ginger Ale, which I’ve been drinking all day because my allergies make me nauseous.

Parts of Speech are the Building Blocks of Sentences

As the section title says: Parts of speech are the building blocks of sentences. Every sentence we construct can be broken down into smaller bits and pieces that fit together like a jigsaw puzzle. We’re going to take a look at the different parts of speech and how they fit together to form a complete sentence.

Adjectives – These are words that describe nouns and pronouns. They tell us things like color, height, weight, number, etc.

Adverbs – These describe verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs. They tell us when, where, how, and to what extent.

Conjunctions – These are connector words that show how different things are related. Some conjunctions are: And, But, Yet, And, Because.

Interjections – These are words that show strong emotion such as Oh, Wow, Hey, etc.

Nouns – These are the names of people, places, or things.

Prepositions – These link nouns or the pronouns following them to other words in sentences. Example: To, By, Over, In, and From.

Pronouns – These are words used in place of a noun (or other pronoun) such as: I, You, We, They.

Verbs – These are words that represent actions or states of being. Some examples are: Jump, Run, Swim, Hire, Fly, To Be.

Now, I could go on for ages about how the different parts of speech are constructed into phrases—of which there are 8 different types. I could explain things like participles, appositives, and gerunds… but I’m not going to. You don’t want to spend the next week sitting here having simple sentence construction explained to you (Maybe I’ll get into that someday, but certainly not now). Instead, we’re going to move on to something more useful (and far less confusing). The main point I had in bringing up the parts of speech is this: You should know what these are. I’m going to mention them throughout this article, and I don’t want you to be confused. Use it as a cheat-sheet if you must.

Get To The Point

When you write, you want to get to the point of your sentence quickly. The longer you meander around the point of a sentence, the harder it becomes to understand that sentence. We call these meandering sentences wordy. Not all high word-count sentences are wordy, but all wordy sentences have a high word count. Sentences become wordy when they contain too much padding; this padding can consist of an abundance of adjectives and adverbs, but can also be convoluted. We want to avoid this. Let me give you a few examples:

When you write, you generally want to get to the point of your sentence as quickly as possible because the longer your sentence is, the harder it becomes to understand the meaning behind that sentence.

Obviously, this is a pretty convoluted and wordy sentence. Let’s trim it down:

When you write, you want to get to the point quickly. The longer your sentence is, the harder it is to understand.

The second set of sentences are much more concise, and easier to follow.

Wordy, or convoluted sentences make your writing weak and slow down the pace. Shorter, simple sentences not only increase the pace of your writing, but are more engaging. When writing a novel, concise, clear writing is always preferred over wordy, convoluted writing. Here are some things to look out for:

  • Cut out the filler words. Words like: seem, generally, basically, simply, quite, kind of, really, very, etc. are junk words. They rarely add any meaning to your sentences, but do serve to slow the pace.
  • Make sure your sentences get to the point in the most direct manner possible. You can always pad a sentence later if the sentence seems too abrupt and messes with the flow of your writing.
  • Try to keep your sentences below 20 words long. Most sentences average 15 words in length. That doesn’t mean you can’t have longer sentences, but keep it in mind that the longer your sentence goes on, the harder it is to understand.
  • Use proper punctuation (We’ll get to that in another article) to help separate sentences into single ideas, or to join two ideas together. Don’t link more than two ideas together. Ever.
  • Keep 90% of your sentences Active and not Passive. (we’ll get into that below). Passive sentences have their place, but most of your sentences should be active.
  • Don’t use fragments.

Let’s explore a little more.

Fragments

You should know the difference between a complete sentence and a fragment, but you’d be surprised how many people don’t. Complete sentences should have: A Subject (Noun/Pronoun), a Predicate (Verb/Verb Phrase), and should express a complete thought. Example:

My coffee mug is blue.

I think cats are adorable.

A fragment, on the other hand, is an incomplete sentence (usually because a word has been left out):

Coffee mug is blue.

I think are adorable.

Go ahead and laugh, it seems absurd, but a lot of authors try to pass off these fragments off as real sentences. Don’t do it. Fragment sentences don’t make sense.

Vary Your Sentences

Your sentences shouldn’t all be one length. If they are, you writing will feel monotonous. Please don’t do it if you can avoid it. Please, I’m begging you.  See what I did there?

Seriously though,  You should vary your sentences not only in length, but also construction. It helps to keep the flow of your writing fluid and interesting, rather than monotonous and boring. This doesn’t take a whole lot of thought if you do this one thing:  read your writing out loud. Let me explain:

As a writer, you’ve probably read over your own work a multitude of times. Not only that, but because you wrote it, your brain has built itself the ability to fill in the gaps in your writing. You can misspell things, forget punctuation, even forget words, and you may not notice it. Your brain will skim over these gaps as if they didn’t exist and move on—because it knows what you intended. Reading your writing out loud bypasses this built in knowledge of intent. As you read out loud, your brain has to route the information not only through your eyes to your brain, but then from your brain to your mouth. It makes it easier to find mistakes and I highly recommend that you read all of your writing out loud whenever you can. If you’re a brave person, read it out loud while someone’s in the room—hilarity may ensue, but your audience may be able to point out even more mistakes.

Keep in mind: Sentence length, whether short or long, can be used as a tool to change not only the pace of your writing, but can help draw attention to important points. Shorter sentences drive up the tension in a paragraph, whereas longer sentences tend to mellow things out.

Passive vs. Active

Let’s start with some examples:

  • Slamming into every shoreline on Earth, the tsunami hit.
  • Most of the current population had been wiped out by the survivors or by the larger packs of dogs as they scuffled over territories.
  • I never knew when I’d be forced to hole up in the base for several days at a time, and it paid to be prepared.

These are passive sentences. Passive sentences follow a construction where the action is performed upon the subject.. Active sentences on the other hand, are the opposite. They follow a construction where the subject performs an action. Let’s make the above examples active.

  • The tsunami slammed into every shoreline on Earth.
  • Survivors and the larger packs of dogs scuffled over territory, and had wiped out most of the current population.
  • It paid to be prepared, and I often holed up in the base for several days at a time.

See the difference? Not only are passive sentences harder to follow, but they’re usually longer. Most of the time, it’s better to keep your writing active. This doesn’t mean, however, that passive sentences should never be used. Sometimes sentences have to be passive. They may sound better as passive, or sometimes you may want to use passive voice to help avoid placing blame. As long as you keep in mind that you should try to stay active as much as you can, and use passive as a tool—not a default setting—you should be okay.

Expletive Constructions and How They Make Your Sentences Flabby

Expletive Constructions are:

  • It is
  • It was
  • There is
  • There are
  • There were

…at the beginning of a sentence, before the subject. They are used to fill the hole left behind when an author tries to switch subject-verb word order. You don’t need them. Example:

  • It was then that I noticed the little bird.
  • I noticed the little bird.

Another example:

  • There were three children lined up in a row.
  • Three children stood in a row.

A little re-wording can help clear things up with minimal effort, and your writing will be stronger for it. The only purpose an expletive construction serves is to delay the point of your sentence.

Say Exactly What You Mean, Not The Next Best Thing

Another thing you can do to make sure your sentences are strong, is to make sure you pick the best words possible to convey what you mean—not the next best thing. Here’s some examples:

  • Green / Olive
  • Went / Drove
  • Walked / Paced
  • Looked / Stared

Words have slightly (and sometimes vastly) different meanings—a flavor if you will. Try to avoid bland words (such as went, walked, looked) and find words more specific to your meaning.

Now, for a bit of fun… let’s put this all into context

I’m throwing myself under the bus—yet again—for the sake of a writing tutorial/advice article. Below is a paragraph or two out of the first draft of one of my novels. Take a look, and then we’ll shred it… because all first drafts suck, and we need to see some edits in action.

I grit my teeth and lifted a foot to take a step forward. The raw flesh of my feet stuck to the floor as I lifted it, and blood smeared along the stone as I walked with slow steps towards the far side of the room, no longer attempting to hide the pain. I slid my feet along the floor in an uneven gait, holding my breath with each step.

Sweat trickled down the back of my neck, and I winced as I sat gingerly on the short rock-wall that enclosed the pool. My eyes stung with unshed tears as I lifted my legs over the rock wall, sinking them into the cool pool of water. The water turned black around my feet in the moonlight – clouded with blood and mud. It was freezing cold, but I welcomed the numbness. With trembling fingers I began to wash the grime from my body.

Note the redundancies, stiff sentence structure, and the unneeded word additions. Let’s clean it up:

I grit my teeth as I stepped forward; raw flesh sucked at the hard stone, smearing blood in my wake. I shuffled with an uneven gait, and drew in a pained breath with each burning slide forward.

Sweat trickled down the back of my neck, and I winced as I lowered myself onto the short rock-wall that enclosed the pool. With my siblings out of sight, I no longer had to act brave. I’d held it together for the last two days, and here—at last—there was no one left to witness my pain.

With a whimper, I lifted my legs over the rock-wall, relieved to sink them into the cool waters. The pool turned black around my feet, clouded with blood and dirt. I welcomed the numbness of the freezing water, and with trembling fingers, I began to wash the grime from my body. This nightmare wouldn’t be over until I was clean.

I snipped a little here, reworded things there… moved things around, and even added new bits in. It ended up being a little longer overall, but take note of the change in tension.

In Closing…

Though there’s a lot more than just this to writing well, and my opinion is by far not the only (nor most knowledgeable) opinion out there… I hope this article served to help clue you in on a few ways you can improve your writing and construct strong, clean sentences.

Writer’s Tip: All About POV

 

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Point of View. It can change everything. In the most literal sense, POV is the decision of who is narrating your novel, and what they see. POV also refers to the individual viewpoint of your characters, and ultimately, your readers. So where do you start? Well, that’s why I’ve written this article. We will explore the three standard POV options available to every writer, their advantages, disadvantages, and how to choose which one is best for you.  Let’s get started.

 

First Person POV

I stepped into the room on hesitant feet. Leander, the great Lion King of the river valley lay half-in-shadow at the back corner of the room, his tawny paws illuminated by a shaft of light filtering in through the high windows. His sable tail thumped once, twice, in the haze of dust motes, and my breath caught in my chest. I shouldn’t be here.

First person POV is denoted by the use of “I”, “My”, “Me”, “Mine”, “We”, “Us” as the narrator. Usually the narrator is the main character/s, or a close companion to the main character/s. This POV can be used with more than one character, but it’s usually recommended that the cast narrating the story be limited as much as possible–usually only one or two characters. The more characters involved in narrating, the harder it becomes to create distinct voices—but it can be done.

The Pros:

  • The “I” POV feels natural to both the author and the reader. People tend to think in terms of “I” throughout their life. This makes the story easy to sink into.
  • You usually only have to deal with the POV of one or two characters, making it easier to define a very distinctive and personal narrative voice.
  • The character’s POV you are narrating from can be an unreliable narrator—because you can only show the POV of the character currently narrating—it becomes easy to lie to your audience and create tension and conflict through mystery. However, even when your narrator is unreliable, your audience won’t feel betrayed because it’s generally understood that they are limited to the view of the current narrator.
  • Stories told in 1st person POV feel  more personal and engaging, and pull your reader in almost immediately. The very personal narration spurs on a sense of kinship between the reader and the narrator.

The Cons:

  • You can only write about what the current character sees or experiences. This can lead to difficulty understanding the other characters in the story, as your audience can’t hop into their head to see their thoughts or opinions, nor see/experience what they see/experience.
  • The character you choose to narrate your story through must always be present in, or observing the scene. If they leave the room, the audience leave the room too. If the character falls asleep, the scene fades to darkness.
  • Your audience can assume that no matter what, your narrator is going to survive the story—because if they didn’t, they couldn’t tell the story. There are a few exceptions (If the character is a ghost etc), but this is generally true.
  • Describing your main character can be challenging. You can’t very well have your character outright tell the audience what they look like, so details like appearances have to be revealed naturally through little tidbits hidden in the action of the story—or through verbal observations of other characters.

Second Person POV

You step into the room on hesitant feet. Leander, the great Lion King of the river valley lay half-in-shadow at the back corner of the room, his tawny paws illuminated  by a shaft of light filtering in through the high windows. His sable tail thumps once, twice, in the haze of dust motes, and your breath catches in your chest.  You shouldn’t be here.

Second Person POV is denoted by the use of “You” and “Your” in the narrative. The narrator is the author, telling the reader what he is seeing and experiencing. This POV puts the reader into the story, but it is extremely limiting in that the reader actually becomes a character in the story, and therefore the narrative must always follow the reader throughout the story. It is not recommended that this POV be used. Though in the past there have been a small portion of authors who have been able to successfully use Second Person POV, the list is miniscule. The exception, is with Choose Your Own Adventures—in which this is the natural POV to use. Otherwise, I’d highly recommend against using this POV.

Side note: Second Person POV is always written in present tense.

The Pros:

  • It’s quirky and eccentric, and the author can address the reader directly.

The Cons:

  • Most readers find this POV to be bossy and obtrusive. It’s not fun to have someone tell you what you’re seeing and experiencing—even saying without your permission. It tends to rankle, and can be found to be distracting.
  • This POV is so quirky that it practically shouts “look at me, I think I’m clever by being out side the box!” It reeks of stubbornness, and after awhile will grate on the nerves of your reader.
  • Most professional publishers will not even consider a story written in second person POV.

Third Person POV

Third Person POV (Limited) – The Narrator is limited to ONE character at a time.

She stepped into the room on hesitant feet. Leander, the great Lion King of the river valley lay half-in-shadow at the back corner of the room, his tawny paws illuminated by a shaft of light filtering in through the high windows. His sable tail thumped once, twice, in the haze of dust motes, and Khet’s breath caught in her chest. She wasn’t supposed to be there.

Third Person POV (Omniscient) – The Narrator can be a multitude of characters all at once.

She stepped into the room on hesitant feet. Leander, the great Lion King of the river valley lay half-in-shadow at the back corner of the room, his tawny paws illuminated by a shaft of light filtering in through the high windows. He could hear Khet’s dainty steps on the stone floor, and his ear twitched in the darkness where she could not see. He waited for her to step closer. His sable tail thumped once, twice, in the haze of dust motes, and Khet’s breath caught in her chest. She wasn’t supposed to be there.

There are two types of Third Person POV: Limited, and Omniscient. Third Person POV is usually denoted by the use of “He”, “She”, “Her”, “His”, “Their”, “They”, “Them”, “It”. Like First Person POV, Third Person POV is a natural tone of narration used in story telling. It can be used with a multitude of characters, and is possibly one of the easiest forms of POV to write in.

The Pros:

  • (Both) : The narrator can be any one of a multitude of characters, offering up multiple views on any scene.
  • (Both) : Enables conflict/tension/secrets between the characters while allowing the reader to be privy to the story’s secrets
  • (Both) : The reader is less likely to get bored because they are not confined to just one character’s personality. This allows for the author to delve into even the villain of the story’s head for a short time without offending the reader.
  • (Both) : The scenery of the story can be more vast because the characters don’t have to stay together throughout the story. They can even be separated by a continent.
  • (Limited) : The story can concentrate on the major character much like the First Person POV if need be, allowing for an unreliable narrator when needed.

The Cons:

  • (Omniscient) : Your reader may become easily confused unless every voice is distinctive.
  • (Omniscient) : The flow/impact of your story may be softened by too many view points.
  • (Omniscient) : It’s easy to become too lazy and begin narrating as the author rather than as the characters.

Which POV Should I Use?

The short answer is: whichever POV best tells your story. It all depends on the type of story you’re trying to tell. For instance: For Choose-Your-Own-Adventures, you’d probably want to use a Second Person POV. For Biographies, Memoirs, Literary pieces, or very personal narratives, you may want to stick to First Person POV. For stories that contain a lot of characters, or a group of characters that are separated by a distance, Third Person POV may be better.

The point is: Choose what you’re most comfortable with, and what works best for your story—and then stick to it. Never, EVER, mix the different POV’s in a single story.

Writer’s Tip: Tackling The Second Draft

 

ProofreadingThere comes a time in every author’s writing career when it’s time to set aside the first draft of your literary baby and get to work on the second draft. As a book reviewer, I can unfortunately attest to the fact that many authors don’t seem to know what to do at this point. Most of the time when I’ve rated a book 3 stars or below on the scale of “how awesome is this book?” it’s because somewhere along the line, the author has failed to invest in a good editor. Trust me on this: the quickest way to a negative review is to fail your second draft. Please: never upload your first draft. Just don’t.

I realize it’s difficult for any author to look at something they’ve slaved over for weeks or even years and edit with a critical eye. There’s something terrifying about cutting out entire chapters and re-wording sentences we long-ago fell in love with—but it needs to be done. If you can’t be critical of your own work, then invest in an impartial editor and beta readers. Regardless,  you should know how to edit to some degree, and I’m going to give you a bit of a checklist of things to look for. Save yourself some grief later on and give the list a look. You may not agree with all of the points I’ll make, you may even choose to ignore them completely, but you should take a moment to consider them. You’ll be glad you did later on.

Try to look at each of these points individually. It’s a long list (thought not comprehensive..these are just the basics), and it can be overwhelming if you’re trying to consider them all at once. Example: Don’t worry about your spelling while trying to sort out the punctuation in your dialogue. It’s easier, and a lot less stressful, to focus on one point at a time.

The Beginning

It’s ominous, I know. This is the one part of every story that the author undoubtedly stresses over. You’ve probably read it more than any other part of your work, and it’s been around the longest—sometimes through multiple drafts, unchanged. This is your initial hook. It needs to draw your audience into the story and keep them long enough to surpass any lack-luster parts that crop up before the story really starts to sink in. Because of this, you need to pay special attention to it.

Make sure you have a strong first sentence, if not a strong first scene. Pay attention to the technical side of your writing here; misspelled words, incorrect grammar, or misused punctuation will have your audience putting down your book quicker than you can say the title. Now, all of these things are important throughout your story, but double, triple, even quadruple check the first chapter.

Do not start with backstory, exposition, flashbacks, or the weather if you can avoid it. It’s best if the first few moments of your story give us an impression of the main character, or at the very least show us what to expect from the rest of your story. A reader should be able to read your first chapter and get the general gist of what genre your book fits into, and where the story may lead.

The Middle

Do me a favor: find your word count, divide it by 2, and find the chapter that sits at the exact center of your story. This is the climax of your story—or at least it should be. If you find that your climax came earlier, or later than this point, edit accordingly. If the middle of your novel sags you will lose your readers. This should be the point in your novel with the most tension. The absolute worst thing that can happen to your characters, should happen here.

The End

There should be a clear end to your story unless you’ve done something horribly wrong. If your story feels like it ends too abruptly, your readers will be confused and unsatisfied. Now, that isn’t to say that you can’t have an open-ending. Cliffhangers are great—especially if you plan on subsequent books—but at least 90% of your story’s plotlines (or everything but the main series arch) should be wrapped up by this point. Too many holes and things left unexplained can be frustrating.

If you’re working on a stand-alone novel, feel free to wrap things up completely, but be careful you don’t wrap things up too neatly. If your story ends with an epilogue where everyone gets married or is pregnant, you’ve gone too far. Having everything turn out all right in the end isn’t interesting, and the world doesn’t work that way. No matter how good your story was, if everything ends in puppies and hugs, your reader will feel as if you gave up in the end. Leave at least one point that doesn’t result in fuzzy warm feelings. It’s okay to have characters regret actions, or have a character end up with an unhappy result. This isn’t to say that your story has to be a tragedy, just don’t make it perfect; it won’t feel genuine.

The Plot

You should have one. You should also have an overall theme. Take a moment and in one paragraph, try to sum up your entire story. Don’t be too specific:

Plot: A teenage girl, a victim to circumstance, harbors a dangerous secret. When circumstance challenges her to question everything she’s believed about herself and the world she lives in, instead of allowing herself to continue to be a victim, she will fight back, putting everyone she loves in danger for the chance to change her fate.

Theme: Fighting for what you believe in despite the odds, instead of allowing those around you to dictate your fate.

Notice I didn’t name any characters, or specific events. Chances are, at some point, these things will change. Keep your plot in mind as you edit, and do your best to stick to it. If your plot seems weak, it probably is.

Genre

You don’t have to stick to one genre, but you should be able to list which genre’s your story fits into. (Have at least one or two dominant genre’s, after that, no one really cares). I know it feels good to be defiant and say your story breaks conventional genre’s, but when it comes to publishing, you’ll need to be able to classify your story in some way. Otherwise, no one’s going to know where to find it in the bookstore.

You should be aware of your genre while you edit and make sure you fit into it. Certain genre’s have aspects that have come to be expected. Erotica’s will have sex scenes. Romance will be predominantly about relationships. Thrillers should have a sense of danger to them. This doesn’t mean that your story needs to be a clone of every other book in it’s genre, but you should be aware of how these genre’s may effect your plot and theme.

Audience

Be aware of your audience. If you’re writing a Middle-Grade book, your story will be written differently than an Adult book. Keep the age of your audience in mind as you edit. Middle-Grade books won’t contain sex scenes. If you aren’t sure which audience you want to shoot for, that’s okay! Write your story how you want it to be written, and then classify it later, but once you make the decision, make sure you stick to it.

Characters

Each character should have their own personality and motivations. Do not make the mistake of introducing characters whose sole purpose is to show up in a scene, react to other characters, and then fade away into the background. No one will remember their names, and they will come across as one-dimensional. It’s okay if your characters don’t agree with each other, or even make things harder for one another. Characters that have depth will bring your story to life.

If you have trouble, take the time to write a page summary of each character. Talk about their motivations: What do they want out of life? What are their circumstances? What is their personality? How do they feel about your other characters? What is their opinion on the situation at hand? If they were the main character in their own story, how would they handle things?

For example: In one of the novels I’m working on there’s the main character: Khet, and her sister Safiya. Due to unfortunate circumstances, Khet has lived her life as an outcast. Her existence is against the law in her society, and she, and her family have been forced to be secretive about it. This has put a strain on the family as they’re always cautious about how close they become to others in their community. For Safiya, this is particularly difficult. She is Khet’s older sister, and learned at a young age that her mother had betrayed Safiya’s father and had an affair. Due to her anger at her mother, and now her sister because of their forced secrecy, Safiya tends to treat her little sister as a burden, and doesn’t consider her a true relative. She wants nothing more than to get married and have kids of her own, but it seems as if all her life she’s been forced to keep anyone outside her family at bay. When she’s finally given a chance to reach her goals, Khet’s secret is let out, destroying her chances of ever realizing her dreams.

Though in this scenario, Khet is the main character, and the situation is not her fault, from Safiya’s point of view, Khet is the villain. She is an obstacle that stand’s in the way of Safiya’s dreams, and accordingly, she reacts by trying to abandon her sister in an attempt to finally live her life free of these inherited burdens. From Khet’s point of view, her sister Safiya has a caustic attitude and betrays their family, endangering Khet’s life. She comes across as selfish, and maybe even a bit evil—but that isn’t necessarily true. Like Khet, Safiya is a victim of her circumstances.

Your characters should be just as complex. Secondary characters shouldn’t exist just so that the main characters have someone to talk to or argue with. They each have their reasons for what they say and do… take the time to figure out what those are, and then be consistent.

Unless something profound happens, your character shouldn’t change their mind or their personality at the drop of a hat. Your characters will need to be convinced, or forced,  to act or think differently. They shouldn’t change just because it’s convenient for your main character or you. It isn’t realistic, and your audience will start to question if your characters have some unknown, secret motive. Your characters should change during the course of you story—they will inherently do so as the story moves along and events and conversations weigh in on their actions, but it shouldn’t happen like the flip of a switch. Think of it as their religion: would you change your entire faith (or lack there of) in a split second? No, not unless something profound forces you to, or circumstances change.

Dialogue

Say it out loud. I’m serious. One trap that authors repeatedly fall into is to write their dialogue exactly like they write their narrative. You can’t do it. Dialogue isn’t perfect, and it’s one of the few places in a novel where you can break most of the rules of grammar. People talk in stilted half-sentences with stops and starts, mispronunciations, accents, and run-on jibber jabber. They swear, they lie, they sometimes even refuse to speak, sometimes, they even interrupt. That’s okay! What isn’t okay is monologues, and poetic one-liners.

Do yourself a favor; it’ll be embarrassing, but find an empty room (or hey, more power to you if it has people in it!) and speak your character’s dialogue out loud, acting as they would act. It takes very little time to spot poor dialogue. If you can’t get through a sentence without cringing, you probably need to get back to the drawing board.

Also: remember that 90% of a conversation is non-verbal.  Your character is not a floating head in a black box. They should move, gesture, sneer, even storm out of the room—but have them do something—this will help to anchor them within a scene.

Another thing to look out for: names. Most of the time when people talk, unless they are directly addressing someone for clarification in a group or  trying to emphasize a point, they will avoid saying the name of the person they’re talking to. There’s no need to state character’s names in the dialogue if it’s easy to tell who they are talking to.

POV

Your story should be told from the point of view that tells it best—not necessarily what you are most comfortable with. Some stories, particularly personal ones, may be better told from a first-person point of view. Others, particularly those with multiple important characters (especially those that are separated by a great distance), may be better told from a third-person point of view. If your story doesn’t work in a particular point of view, consider switching it. It’s okay if your story is written from the viewpoint of several different characters, and it’s okay if they don’t follow a set pattern of appearance, as long as it’s clear who’s point of view each section of your story is written from. However, please do not switch back and forth between the types of POV. Your story should either be all 1st person, or all 3rd person. You can’t do both. Avoid 2nd person—trust me on this. There is nothing more irritating than having the narrator tell you how you should feel about a story.

  • 1st Person: I picked up the red ball.
  • 2nd Person (present tense)*: You pick up the red ball.
  • 3rd Person: She picked up the red ball.

*2nd person POV is almost always done in present tense – and I best used for choose your own adventure books.

Tense

I’m going to piss some people off: Write in past tense. If you’re considering writing in present tense, please, think it over a little more before you commit.

  • Present Tense: She picks up the red ball. / I pick up the red ball.
  • Past Tense: She picked up the red ball. / I picked up the red ball.

As much as some people will argue, Past Tense is the natural tense for storytelling, as stories are always told after the fact. That isn’t to say that there haven’t been some successful novels written in present tense. There have—but these are the exception, not the rule. The majority of readers find present tense to be distracting and awkward to read through, we are used to past tense. It comes naturally to us.So go ahead, be stubborn and challenge the norm—I applaud you if that is what you want to do, but do it with the understanding that there will be a large amount of readers who outright refuse to read your work. It’s not something I would suggest you endeavor to do with a first novel.

Spelling, Punctuation, Grammar, Style

Spellcheck. Read out loud. Invest in a good copyeditor. Errors will happen—nobody’s perfect—but you can minimize the damage by checking and re-checking your 2nd draft before you hand it over to be published. There is absolutely no excuse to not catch 98% of technical errors before you publish.

Why read out loud? As the author of your story, your brain is so used to reading it (after all, you made it up!) that your brain has inherently learned to “fill the gaps” and skim over errors. Instead of reading the errors correctly, your brain skips over them naturally because you already know what it’s supposed to say. The best way to get around this is to read out loud. Reading out loud forces your brain to work not only through the visual center of your brain, but the verbal as well. The errors will trip you up, and they will be easier to spot.

Reading out loud also helps you to pick out the flow, punctuation, and basic wording of a sentence. If it doesn’t work, you’ll know it.

Now, each person has a different style of writing, but there are certain things you should look out for. Some of these may include:

  • Passive sentences: try to keep these at a minimum. Passive sentences aren’t bad per se, but they do make your writing weak. The reasoning behind this is that passive sentences on average take more words than active sentences. The longer a sentence is, the harder it is to follow. There are times when you’ll want to use passive sentences—for example: To fix the flow of a sentence. Sometimes passive sentences sound better, but the majority of your writing should be active.
  • Don’t be wordy. Wordy doesn’t necessarily mean that you have too many words in a sentence so much as too many words that don’t add anything to the sentence. When constructing a sentences, you want to be as clear and concise as possible. You can always add more words to fix the flow.

Example:

Katherine didn’t really care for Michael that much; he had always reminded her of a dastardly cartoon villain, complete with maniacal laugh and white lab coat.

OR

Katherine disliked Michael, he reminded her of a cartoon villain, complete with maniacal laugh and white lab coat.

Words trimmed: eight. Meaning: unchanged.

  • Vary your sentence structure and lengths (and read everything out loud!). If all your sentences follow the same structure and the same length, your writing will seem boring and dry. It’s good to be concise and get to the point of your sentence quickly, but keep in mind that you need to watch the flow of your sentences. Also, when given the choice, always pick words that mean exactly what you want them to, not the next best approximation. Green != Lime, and Walk != Shuffle.

This is an example. This is not how you should write. All my sentences are short. It seems forced. It reminds me of a drum beat. Thunk. Thunk. Thunk.

This is another example of how you should not write—even if it seems like a better idea than the previous staccato example, if all of your sentences are long, it can be hard to follow your narrative. After awhile, your reader becomes bored, and there’s more opportunity for them to become lost as the story drags on; the longer your sentences, the harder they are to follow.

This is a good example. It’s okay to have long sentences as well as short sentences. A nice blend of both is imperative to keeping your reader interested in your story without boring them. Your writing should be concise–it’s good to get to the point quickly–but by staggering the length of the sentences, the flow of the story is easier to follow. You can use short sentences to draw attention to important points, while longer sentences help smooth out the flow and clarify the points being made. Got it? Good.

  • Take the time to learn proper punctuation, and the function of coordinating conjunctions. Chances are, you’re using them wrong. (and, but, or, yet, for, nor, so) These words should never be used to start a sentence. They are used to join sentences. Sometimes, such as in dialogue, it’s okay to make an exception (like I said, dialogue breaks the rules of grammar!), but chances are if you’re using any of these words to start a sentence, you should change your punctuation.

WRONG: Khet liked Leander. But as much as she enjoyed his presence, she couldn’t help but feel intimidated by his predatory stare.

RIGHT: Khet liked Leander, but as much as she enjoyed his presence, she couldn’t help but feel intimidated by his predatory stare.

 ALSO RIGHT: Khet liked Leander; she enjoyed his presence, but she couldn’t help but feel intimidated by his predatory stare.

PUNCTUATION CHEAT SHEET

When in doubt: check it out.

The Period:

  • Shows that a thought or idea is complete, and is always used at the end of a sentence. Example: I was homesick.
  • Use after most abbreviations. Example: Dr. Nevarr
  • Use after an initial. Example: C. A. Morton
  • Always placed inside a quotation mark that ends a sentence. Example: “If you think I’m going to jump off the edge of this building, you’re insane.”

The Question Mark:

  • Used to mark a question. Example: Why is the sky blue?
  • Place inside closing quotation marks if it is part of the quotation (or dialogue). “Why is the sky blue?” she asked.
  • Place outside the closing quotation marks if it NOT part of the quotation (or dialogue). Did she really just say, “He’s a jackass” ?

The Exclamation Mark:

  • Belongs at the end of an exclamatory sentence. Example: Put on your coat!
  • Should never be combined with any other form of punctuation. Example: What is wrong with you?!
  • Should never be repeated. Example: Never, ever, do this!!!
  • Use sparingly. When used often, your writing will begin to sound comical. Example: It is not okay to repeatedly use exclamation marks! It makes things sound silly! The more I do this, the worse it gets! Seriously! Don’t do it!

The Comma:

  • Used with names and titles. Example: Cary Morton, Author; Jamie Paige, Illustrator
  • Used after introductory expressions. Example: On average, you are more likely to be crushed by a vending machine than bitten by a shark.
  • Used after interrupting words or expressions. Example: Khet, who was often left to her own devices, found the event exhilarating.
  • Used to set off a direct quotation. Example: She said, “Please don’t open the door.” Not that I listened.
  • Used to set off appositives. Example: The character, Khet, is female.
  • Used to separate items in a series. Example: cakes, cupcakes, pies, and cookies.
  • Used to set off words of direct address. Example: The whole event is ridiculous, Leander.

The Semi-Colon:

  • Used to join closely related independent clauses. Example: It’s not bad to use a semi-colon; sometimes they are quite useful.
  • Used to join independent clauses when one or both clauses contain a comma. Example: Sometimes it’s hard to tell when to use a semi-colon, and so they are left out completely; people find it hard place them correctly, and are often warned not to.
  • Used between main clauses connected by a conjunctive adverb. Example: Khet wanted to run away; however, she knew it would be pointless.

The Colon:

  • Used before long, formal quotations.
  • Used before lists.
  • Used before part of a sentence that explains what has just been stated. Example: Khet was a mystery: she rarely ever talked to anyone outside her family.

Quotation Marks:

  • Used to mark dialogue.
  • Used to set off a definition.
  • Used to set off the title of a short work, such as a poem, essay, song, short story, or magazine article.

The Hyphen:

  • Is used to show a break at the end of a bit of dialogue or sentence, usually due to a sudden interruption. Example: “But—“ she started, but quickly stopped when she realized no one was listening.
  • Used in specific compound nouns and adjectives. Example: well-known
  • Used in fractions and compound numbers. Example: twenty-two, one-half

The (em)Dash:

  • Is used to show a break between phrases and clauses. Example:
  • Use to show emphasis, such as a sudden change of thought. Example: Safiya was selfish—and beautiful—but she wasn’t outright cruel.
  • Used before a summary of what is stated in a sentence. Example: Khet wasn’t prepared to leave her family, even if it meant saving herself—she cared about them too much.

The Ellipses:

  • Use to show that you have deleted words or sentences from a passage you’re quoting.
  • Use to show a discontinuation in thought or dialogue. Example: “Leander … seriously?” or “I want … “ She sighed. “I don’t know what I want.”

Punctuation is often a personal style choice (as long as you follow the rules). For example: I use a lot of emdashes (—) and semi-colons ( ; ) when I write. It isn’t wrong—despite popular belief—both can be quite useful; I happen to put my thoughts and dialogue together naturally in such a way that they are used more often than with other authors. That’s okay. You don’t have to use them, but you can if you want to—as long as you are using them correctly.

Whitespace, Paragraphs, and Dialogue Structure

Whitespace is exactly what it sounds like: the white space on a page where words do not exist. The more of it you have, the faster the pace of your story. No one likes walls of text. If your pages seem to have few line breaks, start a new paragraph and give your reader’s eyes a break. Generally the rule you want to remember is: The Rule of One:

  • One statement per sentence.
  • One topic per paragraph.
  • One theme per chapter.

As far as formatting paragraphs and dialogue you should start a new paragraph:

  • Anytime the speaker of dialogue changes.
  • Anytime the actor changes.
  • Anytime the topic changes.

For example, you wouldn’t write dialogue like this:

“Khet?” “Yes?” “Where’s your sister?” “I have no idea.”

Instead, you would format it like this:

“Khet?”

“Yes?”

“Where’s your sister?”

“I have no idea.”

The same thing goes for the actor. You wouldn’t do this:

“Khet?” Leander’s voice cracked, and he cleared his throat. Khet arched a brow.

“Yes?”

Instead, it should look like this:

“Khet?” Leander’s voice cracked, and he cleared his throat.

Khet arched a brow. “Yes?”

Dialogue doesn’t have to sit at the front of a paragraph as long as the person speaking is the same person acting. Also, if the same character speaks more than once, you don’t have to break it up:

“Khet?” Leander’s voice cracked, and he cleared his throat.

Khet arched a brow. “Yes?”

“Have you seen your sister?” he asked, “She seems to be missing.”

Khet stared at him for a moment. “You can’t be serious.” She frowned. “You are serious. Shit.”

…And while we’re on the topic of dialogue and structure, let’s take a moment to discuss proper dialogue punctuation and dialogue tags. Usually, you don’t need dialogue tags half as much as you think you do. From a young age we are taught to slap them on the end of every line of dialogue. To be fair, this is done because as children, it helps us to identify dialogue and remember who is speaking. As we get older, we don’t need quite so much instruction. If dialogue is written well, it doesn’t need a tag. Theoretically you should be able to tell who’s speaking without adding a tag.  If you must use a dialogue tag, make sure it’s one that is commonly used (and therefore easily ignored). Example:

“Khet?” Leander asked.

“Hm?” Khet replied.

“Never mind,” he said.

Ouch. Way too many tags, but you get the idea. Instead, it’d be better if we dropped all the tags that weren’t essential:

“Khet?”

“Hm?”

“Never mind.”

“Leander….”

“All right, all right. Look, we need to talk.”

“About what?”

“Us.”

I didn’t need any dialogue tags here. Now, this isn’t going to happen every time there’s dialogue. This is just one example. In this case, I didn’t need to explain who was talking because the characters had a back-and-forth pattern that repeated, and at one point or another, both of them addressed the other character directly. Dialogue tags tend to slow down the pace and can be quite cumbersome if you let them. Unless you’re writing children’s fiction, it’s usually best to use as few dialogue tags as possible.

So what qualifies as a dialogue tag? Any bit of text that describes who is speaking and the direct manner in which the dialogue is spoken. Example:

  • He said.
  • He asked.
  • He replied.
  • He yelled.
  • He whispered.
  • He bellowed.

What doesn’t qualify as a dialogue tag? Any action performed during or after the dialogue. A lot of people get these confused. Example:

  • He grinned.
  • He smirked.
  • He laughed.
  • He frowned.
  • He gestured.

You can’t grin a sentence. You can only grin during a sentence. The difference? Punctuation.

“Khet,” he whispered.

“Khet.” He smiled.

Notice that with the top example (the dialogue tag), the dialogue ends in a comma, and the sentence is ended after the dialogue tag. With the second example (the action), the dialogue ends within the quotation marks, and the action is a separate entity. It’s very easy to get these mixed up, and a lot of authors do.

You can, however, combine the two:

“Khet,” he whispered, a smile on his lips.

The dialogue tag should always come before the action. You can also put dialogue tags and actions in the middle of the dialogue (especially if you need a pause to emphasize what’s being said, or the character has been speaking for a large amount of time).

“Khet,” he whispered, “please speak to me.”

“Leander….” she began, “I can’t. Not now. Not after—“ She gestured over his shoulder. “—that.”

Take note that with a dialogue tag, the tag is always started with a lowercase letter. With an action, it will always start after quoted punctuation and with a capital letter, and end with a full stop. When you interrupt dialogue with a dialogue tag or action, if there isn’t a long pause (and sometimes there is!), you should treat the dialogue as if it never stopped and write the punctuation/capitalization accordingly. Example:

“Khet, “ he whispered, “please speak to me.”

“Khet.” He ran a hand back through his hair, disheveling the blonde locks. “Please speak to me.”

In the second example I’ve added a longer pause, and left out the dialogue tag, forcing solid punctuation between the two strings of dialogue.

Your Characters Don’t Live in a Vacuum—Detail

Your character has senses:

  • Sight
  • Smell
  • Touch
  • Taste
  • Sound
  • (And Mood! Yes, it counts, trust me.)

You need to use them. It’s easy to let your character float around in a vacuum where all we see is their inner thoughts and their outward dialogue—but that isn’t all there is. Describe things. Add detail. These things are important—just don’t overdo it. Let me introduce: The Rule of Three.

Your readers can only remember three descriptive aspects of any object, person, or place at a time, after that, they skim. Keeping this in mind; you should always try to add detail, but keep it within reason, and for the love of God, make it relevant.

It doesn’t matter that the stop-sign is octagonal or red. We can pretty much guess that’s the case. It does matter that there’s a dead body slumped at the base of it. The same goes for people: try to keep descriptions of characters vague:

Khet was 5’4”, 114 lbs., and brunette. Her eyes were the color of clouded jade, and a spattering of freckles dotted her fair skin.

… That would be going overboard. This is better:

Khet was a petite brunette, with eyes the color of clouded jade.

Three descriptors. That’s all you get. Use them wisely.

As a side note: try not to force your readers into a description. Every character that meets Khet isn’t going to describe her the same way. For example:  Leander (who adores her), would probably describe Khet as lithe with a pert chest, and hair that shone the color of amber in the sunlight. Her sister (who hates her), would probably describe Khet as a gangly, awkward girl, her skin mottled with sunspots, and with hair that hung limp in ratted tangles across her forehead. Perception of places, people, and things will be different depending on who is describing them. Let your characters describe your world – don’t describe it for them.

If you can, you should also avoid Info Dumps. Info Dumps are when an author stops the story to describe something, and then returns to the story as if it never happened. It’s distracting, and your readers will get bored. Instead, always try to work your details into the narrative and dialogue naturally. Things should be described as they are noticed by the characters, but never in a huge block. Spread it out, make it relevant, and keep it to a minimum.

The Basics…

These are the basics of things you need to look out for when editing your second draft, but they are by no means the only things you need to look for. I didn’t get into redundancies, incomplete sentences, world building, or choosing descriptive words by the underlying mood (I don’t have all day to get into these things. Pfft.), but hopefully this will help give you a bit of a checklist of things you should keep an eye out for. These are the things that frequently pop up in books I review that drive me bonkers. Do your readers a favor and fix them.

Cary jumped down off her soapbox, sending the audience a quick salute, and then sauntered off into the remnants of blogland.

Writer’s Tip: Show, Don’t Tell

Khet

Image (c) Copyright Cary A. Morton.
(The owner of this blog)

Show, don’t tell (SDT). It’s one of the few consistent pieces of advice that all writers have heard at one time or another. Even the most amateur of writers parrot it back, but knowing the phrase doesn’t necessarily mean that we understand it, or how to implement it.

So what does “Show, don’t tell.” really mean? SDT is the idea that instead of telling your readers what’s happening in a story, you show them. This seems like an abstract concept to most of us, but what it boils down to is this: using words to give your readers an idea without having to directly state it. There are many ways good writers do this. It can be as simple as adding a scene for when your character walks down the street to the corner market rather than saying “she went to the store.” but it can also be as complicated as weaving subtext into dialogue and editing entire character personalities to prove a point down the line. I want to look at two examples to try and get this point across in a way that will sink in for you. My goal? To make you really think about SDT and what it means, and how you can implement it in your writing.

My first idea I want you to consider is:

1. Convince your reader of your point by putting them in the character’s shoes.

For example, let’s say I have a character who needs to make a tough decision. I could simply say:

It was a tough decision.

Sure–but it’s not convincing. The reader may say “okay.. so it was a tough decision.” but it’s not going to resonate with them. It doesn’t draw the reader into my story. Why should they care? If I were to take the concept of SDT and implement it, the correct course of action would be to put the reader in my character’s shoes. Instead of telling the reader it was a tough decision, how could I make them waffle over the decision as well?

Let’s say the tough decision was the choice in a love triangle. I know, I know, there are some of you rolling your eyes right now, and that’s probably because more often than not, you’ve run across a book that had a love triangle in it and it seemed like a convenient plot device. That’s probably because the author did a whole lot of telling rather than showing. So humor me. Instead of  having just the character waffle over the decision between the two love interests, it is your duty as a writer (yes I really said duty) to make your reader waffle too. You want to get your readers so engrossed in the story that they don’t care how tired the trope of a love triangle is. How do you do that?

Show your readers why your character wants to waffle. Make the love interests so equally loveable that even your reader has a hard time choosing between the two. That means they both need to have equal part bad to their good and they must be equal to each other. Putting your reader into your character’s shoes is one of the most involved and complicated ways of “showing” but it’s good –no–great writing. It’s hard, because you have to really convince your reader that both the people in this triangle are worth loving, and no, you can’t just say “this guy was really sweet and funny, and the other guy was really sexy and deep”. I’d need to show those traits consistently throughout the story so that I never have to “tell” my reader why they’re both a valid choice. It should be a no-brainer why my character waffled over the decision.

This also applies to describing your main character’s personality. Instead of saying “she was beautiful, shallow, and none-to-bright.” Find ways to prove those points to us. Show an instance where she’s shallow or where her beauty is brought up (like a character that glances at her and then walks into a pole). Show us how dumb she is with her dialogue and actions.

2. Another example of SDT (and perhaps easier to grasp) is the use of subtext to show emotion. The idea behind this is that you should never have to explain how your character feels, their actions and words should show it clearly enough that it never be said.

For example, I’ll take a 1st draft (short) scene from one of my own stories. Yup, I’m throwing myself under the bus. It reads like this:

“Mahir!” I called out into the darkness with a tired note to my voice and smoothed Sadia’s hair back from her face to calm her.

Mahir’s awkward thumping footfall approached to my left, and he collapsed onto the flat rock beside Sadia.”What?” he asked in a tired, gravelly voice.

“Give me your cloth.” I ordered, motioning it. I could barely see his face in the creeping dark, but I didn’t need to. He stared at me in nervous reluctance. “Just give it here. No one here cares about your nakedness. Let me bind your feet.”He hesitated, but began to unwind the cloth from around his waist.

The pain of our feet scraped raw had been our constant companion for the last several hours. Even Mahir was past caring. A low warning growl sounded from behind me, but I ignored it as I tiredly tore Mahir’s loin cloth into strips and begin to bind his feet.

“What about you?” Mahir asked quietly in the dark, a note of concern to his voice. His eyes were focused on something behind me, but I ignored it and kept at my work.

“I’m fine.” I waved off his concern.

“Khet-” he started.

“There’s nothing to be done about it!” I nearly shouted, and Mahir grew quiet. The shrill sound of my voice echoed off the rocks in the dark. “Help your sister to walk.”

It’s not god-awful, but it’s not great either. Now let’s look at the same scene with SDT applied:

“Mahir!” I called out into the darkness, wincing at the falter in my voice. It’d been hours since we’d left the village and my tongue felt like wet clay in my mouth. I cleared my throat and smoothed Sadia’s hair back from her face. Her small shoulders relaxed, and she leaned against my chest, her sweat-beaded forehead sticking to my skin.

Mahir’s footsteps thumped in an uneven gait from my left, then he collapsed onto the flat rock to the other side of Sadia.”What?” His voice was like gravel crunching under foot, and the skin of his lips had begun to flake off in dry bits.

“Give me your cloth.” I motioned for it, my arm awkwardly swinging out in his direction before falling back to my side. I could barely see his face in the pale light of the moon, but I didn’t need to. He stared at me for a moment, his half-lidded gaze zeroed in on my face. I fought the urge to swallow against the pasty feeling at the back of my throat. “Just give it here. No one cares about your nakedness. Let me bind your feet.”

He hesitated, but began to unwind the cloth from around his waist. He held his feet a few scant millimeter’s from the gravel around us, careful not to set them down even as he worked.A low warning growl rumbled behind me, but I ignored it as I tore the loin cloth into strips and began to wrap them tightly around Mahir’s feet.

“What about you?” Mahir’s gaze flicked down to my feet. Even in the dark, the wetness on the gravel beneath them was evident.

“I’m fine.”

“Khet-“

“There’s nothing to be done about it!”. Mahir tensed, and I let out a long breath, purposefully unclenching my hands. The shrill tone of my voice resonated among the rocks around us, and only when the air was still again did I speak. “Help your sister to walk.”

Obviously, the basics of the scene are the same. What changed was the way I elaborated on the scene by “showing” my readers the emotions and subtext of what was happening. I didn’t need to say that they were tired, thirsty, or in pain, but I guarantee you that my reader understood that. I never had to say that the siblings were concerned for one another, or relieved to be off their feet. Go ahead, look back and see if you can find any of these words:  tired, thirsty, pain, exhausted, concerned, or relieved. You won’t find them in the second scene. This is the essence of SDT; to use the narrative and dialogue to present the idea that your character is tired (for instance) without ever having to use the word “tired”. Your readers don’t need to be told how to feel about a scene if you just let them feel it. Put them there in that moment and quit “telling” them about it.

“Show, don’t tell.” is the simplest phrase to parrot out as advice, but the real concept behind it isn’t easy. It’s work. It takes planning and sometimes it can be difficult to spot places where it should be used. Don’t let this discourage you. Hopefully by the end of this article I’ve given you something to think about it, and maybe–just maybe–I’ve given you a better understanding of what SDT really means. The next time you approach an author or a struggling-writer with the phrase “Show, don’t tell.” help them out. Explain it to them. Link them to this article. Parroting the phrase isn’t helpful if the person receiving it doesn’t know what it means. Cut them some slack and give them a helping hand up… we all need one sometimes.

P.S. The text examples used in this article are from Khet, an original Fantasy novel by moi. You can find the first (unedited) chapter posted as an excerpt under the “My Unpublished Writing” category over on the right hand side of this blog. The bits used here are from the second chapter.