Now that we’ve been working on the blog for a while, we’ve revamped our scheduling process. The new schedule can be viewed on our profile page. But no worries, our fiction days are staying EXACTLY THE SAME.
That being said, today is the first day of the new schedule, and you’re all lucky enough to get me. Talking about the craft of writing.
I think of “craft” the way I think about learning a second language. First you memorize nouns and verbs, you learn to conjugate, you learn all the different rules. Tenses. Subject/predicate. You start stringing together thoughts and forming complete phrases in a grammatically correct way.
But then, when you’re good enough and are thrown into conversation with a native speaker, a lot of those rules get tossed out the window. The rules are the building-blocks, but to communicate, you have to learn which rules are the important ones, which can be twisted, which are useless for your purposes. You learn, and then you deconstruct your learning.
And it’s the deconstruction that’s most important – and maybe that’s where a writer’s style and voice come from. When you figure out which rules you need to use, which you want to use, and which you don’t care about one way or another.
SHOW, DON’T TELL.
It’s one of the more common “rules” of writing. And it means that you shouldn’t say “David loved cars,” when you can say “The smell of engine grease and new leather made David’s loins sing.” (Hey, I didn’t promise any well-written examples.)
In general, show don’t tell is a decent rule to get under your belt. But what you have to figure out is that it doesn’t necessarily mean what you thought it meant in high school. It doesn’t mean you can’t ever write “David loved cars.” It just means you have to be aware of why you’re doing it.
Take a look at this paragraph from my current WIP:
I’d spent a weekend cutting up cardboard moving boxes into star-shapes and spirals and lighting bolts, then spray painted them bright colors and hung them from the rafters. They dangled obnoxiously like my own private heaven. Lilith hated it so much, I’d almost peed my pants laughing.
I didn’t write “Lilith’s eyes popped out of her head and her face turned pink when she saw them,” which is the showing version of a “telling” phrase like “Lilith hated it so much.” But that’s because I’m using “Lilith hated it so much” to show something about the narrator – his voice, and his feelings for his stepmother. I’m “telling” in order to “show.”
The point is, when you’re learning to write (and we’re ALL learning, until we stop doing it), there are some rules that you shouldn’t put all your faith in – rather like fanaticism breeds destruction, never questioning what you’re taught will only produce boring, unoriginal stuff.
Take rules, and break them – with purpose and imagination.