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Archive for March, 2011

While learning to write and soaking up every possible piece of advice anyone’s proffered (and then ignoring them if I fancy breaking a couple of rules), one of the nuggets which seems applicable again and again is “Show, don’t tell“. Much of the time, “Paula looked sad” becomes a lot more powerful when rewritten as “Paula’s whole body seemed to crumple and her cheeks were wet with tears”, for example.

I had a meeting with one of our course tutors yesterday which went very well. She said that the next step I need to take with my writing is to render the inner lives of characters more fully on the page. She gave me some reading recommendations of writers who do this well (Margaret Atwood and Edith Wharton, for example), and a handout which might help, but she said that this is generally something which can’t be taught.

She said also that she’s aware that this depiction of the inner lives of characters will seem a bit like it goes against the aforementioned ‘show, don’t tell’ rule.

She’s right: often when I’m writing, I try to depict a character’s thoughts through their actions instead of telling the reader how the character is feeling or what they’re thinking. Instead of telling the reader that my character feels frustrated, a character will take a sharp intake of breath or purse their lips. This probably comes from reading a bit too much early Raymond Carver when I first started writing. So maybe it’s better if that character not only purses their lips, but also thinks about their frustration, why it’s happened, how it makes them feel or what it makes them remember.

Perhaps it’s time now to slowly and delicately unravel my ingrained habits; to tell the reader what my characters might be thinking.

What do you lot  reckon?

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