Everything I know about writing (and life), I learned from books, other writers or experience (as in mistakes). Well, maybe not everything… but a lot. My muses are like cats (independent, fierce, magical), and I tend to follow their lead. Want to come along? I invite you to add your 2 Cents (or 10) in comments below.
In 2013, we lost Elmore Leonard. Now, he doesn't write my kind of book, but he's a helluva writer and we can learn from him. For several years, Elmore attended the Tucson Festival of Books (March15-16, 2014). These notes came from one of his workshops and are worth considering. After all, look at his body of work and writing accomplishments, not to mention movies made from his books.
Rules for Showing not Telling :
1. Never bore the reader. Got that!
2. Never open with the weather, only a character's reaction to the weather or something unusual or disastrous happening around him/her. We're talking emotion here.
3. Avoid prologues. They're usually backstory and we don't want to start with that. Yes but… we love prologues, don't we? They often give motivation and yeah, backstory. OK.
4. When writing dialogue, never use a verb other than 'said'. Not even huskily or thickly?
5. Never use an adverb to describe 'said'. It's distracting and interrupts the flow. Not softly, or seriously? Or even verily?
6. Never use 'suddenly' or 'all hell broke loose.' Just show the hell breaking loose. How about Meanwhile, back at the ranch… ? No. OK.
7. Use regional dialect sparingly. How about my Southern fav, all y'all?
8. Avoid detailed descriptions of people and places. Let the reader imagine. What? We 'happy ending' folks love description. Just not too much, I guess.
9. Leave out parts the readers tend to skip... all the whoop-tee-do. Are you talking emotion here? Or sensuousness? We love that stuff!
10.If it sounds like writing, rewrite it. He's famous for this statement. I think he means 'Show, don't tell.'
11.Control exclamation marks. Makes me want to run to my computer and write 'Suddenly, all hell broke lose!!' But that's just me.
12.Because it's so important in any art, I'm adding be sure to include emotion. Emotion is what drives stories, motivates characters, turns them around, and gives them a satisfying conclusion. Without emotion, characters wouldn't care, and neither would readers.
Thanks Elmore. For stories and lessons. I will admit to a serious addiction to… exclamation points!!! I put them in everything, from emails to grocery lists. It's my way of sharing the excitement! The photo is from Dali's Museum in Spain. His art is even more outrageous than it looks here. I wonder if anyone gave Dali a list of Ways to Do Art? Does Elmore's list hit home?