You think you know how to write fiction? You probably don’t. Not unless you follow these four cardinal writing rules.
Remember: some highly successful writers break these rules and still write great stuff. But you are not one of them. It is not possible to break these rules and write great stuff unless you are already a successful writer. Got it? Good.
1. Show, don’t tell
You’re telling me a story, right? Wrong. You need to show me the story. You don’t need a pen and paper or a keyboard — you need a stage. Perform for me, monkey.
You could act out the story, mime it, or come up with a contemporary dance routine. Whatever you do, don’t you dare tell me what happens, because that’s bad writing. It’s boring. What readers really want is a series of ideas which they can interpret in a million and one different ways without fully understanding what your story is all about. Do you understand? Of course you don’t. That’s exactly my point.
Now, there is a very subtle difference between showing and telling when writing fiction, and I’m afraid I can’t share with you what that difference is. Why? Because I have no idea myself. Nobody does. All I know is that “show, don’t tell” is the most repeated mantra known to fiction writers the world over, and we must abide.
2. Never carry dialogue with anything other than “said”
You don’t want your writing to become too pretentious, right? In that case, don’t even think about using anything other than “said” when you’re telling — sorry, showing — us how your characters interact.
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I’ve got a hell of a lot of unread non-fiction books languishing on my shelves and lest they find themselves destined for the charity shop, I need to get stuck into them. I started with A Single Swallow, which is a mishmash of nature writing, travel writing, and history, with a touch of autobiography along the way.
Horatio Clare documents his travels as he follows the annual migration of swallows from South Africa to Wales. He journeys across Africa and up into Europe, finding himself making plenty of friends and losing an awful lot of money – and a touch of sanity – along the way. Continue reading “A Single Swallow | Horatio Clare”
Dear Lost Forks,
I’d like to begin by thanking you for your vital, if short-lived, service. Over the past few months, you have done important work in aid of my taste buds and my stomach. You helped me to shovel pasta into my mouth at a rate that is almost superhuman. You allowed me to mash avocado onto toast so beautifully that my Instagram followers were driven wild. You even helped me to tackle the ring pulls on my Diet Cokes when I was afraid of breaking a nail, a task that is far beyond your intended role.
I know that I haven’t always been kind. Many a time I woke you from your slumber in the cutlery drawer, only for you to lay idle beside my plate as I threw my manners out the window and ate my food with my hands. You didn’t pass judgement on this lewd behaviour of mine, even when I ate so viciously that you were splattered with sauce and crumbs like mere placemats. Following this, and to my shame, I would simply mark you as ‘unused’ and replace you, unwashed, in the cutlery drawer.
Without a doubt, it is antics of this nature which have forced you to leave without saying goodbye…
Read the full post over at Medium >
Yeah, I’m writing on Medium! I’m hoping to post one new post -either fiction or silly non-fiction such as this – each week, so be sure to Follow me if you’re a Medium member. I’m looking forward to connecting with more people over there, too, so let me know if you’re a Medium writer.
It’s awesome when you read a book or a story and you think, “I wanna write stuff as good as this!” You come away feeling all excited about the possibilities of these little things called words. It reignites that passion to practise, practise, practise in hopes that you’ll one day be even just a fraction as skilled as the author who penned that brilliant piece of fiction.
What’s less awesome is when you read said book or story and find yourself subsequently scribbling a cheap, knock-off version of the same thing. Reading is an important part of learning how to write, but there’s a fine line between being inspired by great fiction and being influenced by it. Continue reading “Being Inspired, Not Influenced, by Other Writers | Blog”
Sass, magic, time-travel, and a talking snowman. If that doesn’t make you want to read A Witchly Influence, I don’t know what will. Continue reading “A Witchly Influence, Stephanie Grey | Book Review”
I read this book in just a little over 24 hours, despite absolutely not having the time to do so, which goes to show how much gripped me. It’s a story about three women who are brought together by tragedy and public humiliation, and it’s both laugh-out-loud funny and hide-behind-your-hands cringeworthy. Continue reading “The Cows, Dawn O’Porter | Book Review”
Social media interaction is the first thing to fall by the wayside when I’m depressed. Long story short, it’s because I hate myself so passionately that it’s almost funny.
My self-esteem tends to be pretty low on a regular basis, but when depression takes hold it gets even worse; I find myself hating everything about myself and tearing myself down in every possible way. My appearance, my personality, my ability to write – everything about me sucks. I’m the real life Britta from Community – I’m the worst. Continue reading “This is Why I Suck at Social Media | Blog”
Warning: I have a bit of a ramble here. If you want to get straight to the review, click here.
I acquired Some Lie and Some Die late last year when I helped my Mum do a mega clear-out in readiness for her to move house. She was saying goodbye to the family home she’d lived in for almost 20 years, so you can imagine there was a fair bit of clutter that had been accumulated, and a great deal of that clutter was books. Glorious books. Continue reading “Some Lie and Some Die, Ruth Rendell | Book Review”
I love a bit of Vonnegut, but I started reading Deadeye Dick back in 2012 and barely got a quarter of the way through it. I got bored, despite enjoying his trademark one-liners and deliciously scathing tone.
This time around I finished the whole thing in just a couple of days, but those first few chapters were still a bit of a slog. Continue reading “Deadeye Dick, Kurt Vonnegut | Book Review”