We had a great meeting of the Canvey Writers last night.
I formed the group, since there was no evening group on Canvey, back in January and we have a great group of writers of all ages and experience. The meeting was 14-strong last night, out of the 22 members as we had a number of people sent apologies, were away or working late. But it’s a respectable number never the less.
I have posted here before about the power of a group. It very much depends on the nature of the group and its ethos as to how well a writing group does. This group is very much in its infancy and so can move in various directions. The needs will be dictated by its members. But they are a talented and passionate group and that’s a great place to start.
Since we do have a fair number of new writers, I have been running some small workshopping sessions as I did last night with that old chestnut: Showing and Telling. It’s something as writers we really do need to get to grips with to make our writing as strong as it can be. But it’s also one of the things people struggle with; at least initially. Think for a moment about how much you understand by it.
How would you teach it?
I find myself regularly having to explain it to clients in a way that makes perfect sense and attempts to dispel some of the myths. Actually the concept is not hard to grasp, I think people struggle to explain it well, which is why new writers flounder.
While there are layers to it, in its simplest form it’s the difference between filming a scene, and reporting on it. It’s in the little details we create the image in the mind of the reader, so the girl doesn’t just read a diary, she flicks through the yellowed pages of her old blue diary.
The boy isn’t frustrated; he bunches his fists and paces the room.
The head teacher doesn’t say “Get here now boy!” angrily, she just says it and the dialogue shows the anger.
You don’t pause a story for blocks of ‘telling’ exposition, you drip-feed the back story or the explanation in on a need-to-know basis.
You don’t add tags to dialogue that explain why a character says something or acts a certain way, usually it’s implied, or you use body language instead. So a character never lies, but he doesn’t answer the question or looks away or stirs his tea more slowly, giving the reader something to ponder; making the reader active in the process and thus more engaged.
Showing is filming, it’s visual but also add to that internal monologue so in writing, unlike film, you can invade direct thought which also makes it a lot more engaging.
Showing puts the reader in the scene; telling puts the reader on the outside watching the scene.
Here endeth the flash lesson today.
I hope the writing group learned from our little workshop. It was great fun. And even if you know this stuff, it never hurts to have a recap.
Have a great day everyone!