Extract from podcast episode 1 (August 2010) – hints & tips

As I have limited space on the pages of my website (www.morgenbailey.com) I thought I’d give tasters of what was included in the episodes I post… here’s an extract from episode 1…

W Somerset Maugham once said that there are three rules for writing but no-one knows what they are. Here are three I’ve come across…

  • ’show not tell’ – you may well have heard of this and probably know what is meant by it but it’s something I have to remember when doing edits. Basically, tell is to be avoided and show is what you’re aiming for. An example of ‘tell’ would be ‘he felt angry’ – where you’re telling the reader how a character is feeling but you really want to http://hubpages.com/hub/How-to-use-Past-Tense-Present-Tense-and-Future-Tense-in-Novel-Writing ‘show’ the emotions, for instance where he or she slams a door, or thumps down a fist. Although we’ve all had emotions of feeling angry, a good story lets readers use their imagination and it’s easier to imagine an action;
  • ‘the five senses’ – most stories thrive on sight (what’s happening) and sound (dialogue) but don’t forget the other three senses: taste, touch and smell. Is something that your character’s looking at, or touching, rough or smooth? What are the smells wherever he or she is? Taste is less likely to happen but it’s an added bonus if it does, of course only if it fits with the story. Also throwing in a colour every now adds a bit more depth.
  • ‘repetition’ – this is one of my bugbears. You want to avoid using the same word twice close together (with the exception obviously of basics such as ‘the’ and ‘and’ etc.) for example: ‘Oliver reached an opening in the woods. The woods seemed haunting.’ Apart from the second sentence being a ‘tell’ it would be more atmospheric to say ‘As he reached an opening in the woods, Oliver gasped as he heard branches breaking behind him. He swung round and…’ and the rest is for you to imagine or, if you’d like to, continue with. Also changing the beginning avoids having too many sentences starting with a character’s name – something I’m more conscious of these days.

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