Every morning when I go through my emails there is one specific email I look forward to reading and that is bestselling author David Farland’s Daily Kick in the Pants. He provides writing advice on anything from finding your writing voice to worldbuilding to reading poetry (or paying attention to any form of art, really) to enhance readability of your stories.
You can subscribe on his site here and he’ll send you a daily article on the arty craft of writing. Believe me, it is not a bad way to start your day. And if you have coffee with that, even better. Plus it’ll prepare you mentally for the day’s writing.
My post today deals with David’s email yesterday in which he discussed the rule of thumb that good writing is less telling and more showing. David believes this adage doesn’t aptly describe what showing entails and explains how all your senses need to be harnessed to effectively show your story. Even if you write cinematically there is still a chance that you may lose contact with your protagonist, forgetting to explain how they feel or how events impact them internally.
As I’ve said repeatedly on this blog, writing is a lifelong learning process in which you strive for mastery of the craft, but you will never attain it. In that vein I will never hold myself as an expert, but as a student. A student who shares his writing adventures. This, I think, is a more appropriate approach.
Having said that, in The Seals of Abgal I tried to include smell and sight and touch, including emotion, to show the reader as much as I could. My intention was to make the reader feel what my protagonist was feeling, both physically, emotionally, and mentally. To a large extent I think I succeeded in doing that. My readers seem to think so.
Here is an excerpt from The Seals of Abgal (Please note some profanity appear below):
“Is she still alive? Please, tell me you left her alone, tell me you didn’t touch her. Please!” The words rushed out, thick with emotion. Fear driven desperation made me reach for hope, even the pretense of it, as if the mere act of hoping could distort reality and make it nice and safe and untainted.
“She is no more, Mr Kaine. Don’t be so naive.” Seir had a quizzical expression on his face, showing surprise that I’d actually consider that they would leave Gio alone. “Mr. Noodles kindly silenced her for me. You broke her neck, didn’t you, Mr Noodles?” Seir turned to Noodles who had just entered the basement and was standing on the landing. Noodles nodded, still cradling his broken hand.
“I played with the bitch first. Snapped her neck, after, when she was all used up.” He came down the stairs and stopped on the last tread and said, “Pretty one, that one. Had some fight in her.” Noodles grinned at me. “But I was too much man for her.” He beamed, proud of his brutal handiwork.
Blood drained from my face as a chill ran through me. My heart stopped beating for a moment. I didn’t want to accept it and for a fraction of a second I almost convinced myself that this must be a nightmare, that I only need to wake up, but then realization clicked in place somewhere in my subconscious, kicking my heart into overdrive. It raced madly, thudding violently, the noise of it drowning out everything. I saw Seir’s lips move, but no sound reached my ears.
“You bastards!” “You pieces of fucking shit!” I tried to leap out of the broken bookcase, twisting and pulling at my bonds, kicking out with my legs, but I ended up squirming like a flipped turtle, helpless and harmless. I didn’t stop. Driven by mad hate, I bounced in the box as if overcome by seizures hurling vocal abuse at Noodles and then at Seir and then at both of them until I could think of no more words and my voice grated against my throat and I was out of breath and drained. I lay there impuissant, my chin shiny with spittle.
I wanted to kill them. Wanted to rip their throats open. I wanted them to suffer. Seir’s callousness for the life he ordered taken enraged me. If he didn’t care about Gio’s life, he would damn well care about his own. I’d make sure of it. I wanted to crush Noodles’s face under my heel and grind the life from him. I wanted pain to be the centre of their universe.
When I wrote this scene I remember experiencing the same emotions my protagonist experienced and that helped me choose the right words, although, truth be told, this scene almost wrote itself. I got carried away by anger and desperation and that fueled my fingertips. As a result, the scene that followed this one felt really good to write.
This part of the writing process, when you immerse yourself so deeply into your created world, where you form an almost symbiotic relationship with your characters, is both draining and absolutely wonderful, or maybe I’m allowed to say wonderfully addictive. And showing, as a result, becomes a natural consequence of being so involved. I might have simplified it too much and maybe I will change my mind somewhere in the future, but for today, this makes absolute sense to me.
Please visit David’s site and subscribe to his Daily Kick in the Pants. I can guarantee you won’t be sorry.