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Monday, January 25, 2016

Breaking Writing Rules Right: "Show, don't Tell"

It's one of the first rules of creative writing you'll hear. It may be the rule you hear the most: "Show, don't tell." Today I'll explain what that rule means, why it's in place, and then why following it too closely can actually harm rather than help your writing. There are places in writing where telling is just frankly better, and even more powerful.

What's the Rule?

The Rule:
Show, don't tell.

Why it's a Rule

Honestly, almost any beginning writer who is getting into writing needs to hear this advice, and probably several times. When I was in college, this was like scripture. I heard it every week, if not every day. This is because naturally, we are wired to "tell" a story rather than "show" one. Telling is easier, and if we don't know the difference, we just do what's natural and easy.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Muse in Concert: Drones World Tour 2015-2016

I saw Muse in concert and on a scale from 0 - Harry Potter, it was Harry Potter. Muse almost convinced me to be a musician--and I'm not even musical. I love, love, love concerts, so I've probably been to about 15, and I'm pretty sure this was THE best concert I've ever attended. (You can check out a "summary" of it in my Youtube video above.) Muse is crazy talented. The way Matt Bellamy sings "Mercy" will melt the souls of serial killers, and whenever I hear "Plug in Baby" live, it makes my mouth water. And that's only the beginning.

Honestly, my brother said it best: Muse is what other bands try to be.

They are the real deal. Seriously though. They've got cuh-razy talent in multiple instruments, the vocals are unbelievable, their stage-presence exceptional, and the songs they write--sweet heaven above--they've got that too!

Which has led me to this conclusion. These guys are real musicians. They aren't just a "face" and their songs aren't all just repeats of each other. They have songs that just about anyone could love and enjoy, and then they have these crazy songs where they blend things that you thought could never blend together--like western, and piano, and electronic, and hard rock, and falsetto vocals--and they completely own it.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Vague Vs. Ambiguous: Which are You Writing?

Imagine you sat down and started reading a story that opened like this.

"What are those people doing out here?"
"I don't know."
Poppy sighed and ran a hand through her hair. The woman was very old. Her sister took off her scarf and went inside.
"How many days until Wind Set Day?" the prophetess asked.
"Four, maybe five, perhaps," she said.

How many people are in the story? Two? Four? What's the setting? Since someone goes inside, we can assume the characters are outside of something, so they are probably outdoors, but we don't know for sure. And what does the sister go inside of? A house? A store? A box? What kind? What's "Wind Set Day"?

These are all things we can guess at, but we can't really get a picture of what is going on. It's vague. Unfortunately a lot of unpublished stories start this way. Later in this post, I'll go more into why new writers often make the mistake of starting like this and exactly how it works to create a problem. (And yes, of course, all rules are made to be broken).

Vague writing is like this picture. Its blurry. Unfocused. As a reader, we can't really tell what is going on.

While "vague" and "ambiguous" are often considered synonyms, in a lot of places in the writing world, they don't mean the same thing.

"Vague" deals with the story being out of focus and vapory. It's not quite anything.

"Ambiguity" happens when something in the story could mean multiple things--supported by evidence.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Considering the Irrationality of Your Characters

In honor of The Hunger Games movies finishing up this last year, I re-read the trilogy (again), and realized (again) that when it comes to Katniss Everdeen, Suzanne Collins doesn't forget to consider Katniss's irrational side.

Often when we deal with characters, we spend a lot of time building their rational side. We look at their rational motives and try to make sure they are thinking logically for the story line. I know I have spent hours trying to brainstorm and pin down the logical thoughts in some of my characters' heads. But considering how your character can be irrational can provide plenty of ideas for you to play with.