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Friday, June 12, 2020

Writing - part xx253 Writing a Novel, What is Show Don’t Tell

12 June 2020, Writing - part xx253 Writing a Novel, What is Show Don’t Tell

Announcement: Delay, my new novels can be seen on the internet, but my primary publisher has gone out of business—they couldn’t succeed in the past business and publishing environment.  I’ll keep you informed, but I need a new publisher.  More information can be found at  Check out my novels—I think you’ll really enjoy them.

Introduction: I wrote the novel Aksinya: Enchantment and the Daemon. This was my 21st novel and through this blog, I gave you the entire novel in installments that included commentary on the writing. In the commentary, in addition to other general information on writing, I explained, how the novel was constructed, the metaphors and symbols in it, the writing techniques and tricks I used, and the way I built the scenes. You can look back through this blog and read the entire novel beginning with

I’m using this novel as an example of how I produce, market, and eventually (we hope) get a novel published. I’ll keep you informed along the way.

Today’s Blog: To see the steps in the publication process, visit my writing websites
The four plus one basic rules I employ when writing:
1. Don’t confuse your readers.
2. Entertain your readers.
3. Ground your readers in the writing.
4. Don’t show (or tell) everything.
     4a. Show what can be seen, heard, felt, smelled, and tasted on the stage of the novel.
5. Immerse yourself in the world of your writing.
These are the steps I use to write a novel including the five discrete parts of a novel:

1.     Design the initial scene
2.     Develop a theme statement (initial setting, protagonist, protagonist’s helper or antagonist, action statement)
a.     Research as required
b.     Develop the initial setting
c.     Develop the characters
d.     Identify the telic flaw (internal and external)
3.     Write the initial scene (identify the output: implied setting, implied characters, implied action movement)
4.     Write the next scene(s) to the climax (rising action)
5.     Write the climax scene
6.     Write the falling action scene(s)
7.     Write the dénouement scene
I finished writing my 29th novel, working title, Detective, potential title Blue Rose: Enchantment and the Detective.  The theme statement is: Lady Azure Rose Wishart, the Chancellor of the Fae, supernatural detective, and all around dangerous girl, finds love, solves cases, breaks heads, and plays golf.  
Here is the cover proposal for Blue Rose: Enchantment and the Detective
Cover Proposal
The most important scene in any novel is the initial scene, but eventually, you have to move to the rising action. I am continuing to write on my 30th novel, working title Red Sonja.  I finished my 29th novel, working title Detective.  I’m planning to start on number 31, working title Shifter
How to begin a novel.  Number one thought, we need an entertaining idea.  I usually encapsulate such an idea with a theme statement.  Since I’m writing a new novel, we need a new theme statement.  Here is an initial cut.

For novel 30:  Red Sonja, a Soviet spy, infiltrates the X-plane programs at Edwards AFB as a test pilot’s administrative clerk, learns about freedom, and is redeemed.

For novel 31:  Deirdre and Sorcha are redirected to French finishing school where they discover difficult mysteries, people, and events. 

Here is the scene development outline:

1. Scene input (comes from the previous scene output or is an initial scene)
2. Write the scene setting (place, time, stuff, and characters)
3. Imagine the output, creative elements, plot, telic flaw resolution (climax) and develop the tension and release.
4. Write the scene using the output and creative elements to build the tension.
5. Write the release
6. Write the kicker
Today:  Why don’t we go back to the basics and just writing a novel?  I can tell you what I do, and show you how I go about putting a novel together.  We can start with developing an idea then move into the details of the writing. 

To start a novel, I picture an initial scene.  I may start from a protagonist or just launch into mental development of an initial scene.  I get the idea for an initial scene from all kinds of sources.  To help get the creative juices flowing, let’s look at the initial scene. 

1.     Meeting between the protagonist and the antagonist or the protagonist’s helper
2.     Action point in the plot
3.     Buildup to an exciting scene
4.     Indirect introduction of the protagonist

Ideas.  We need ideas.  Ideas allow us to figure out the protagonist and the telic flaw.  Ideas don’t come fully armed from the mind of Zeus.  We need to cultivate ideas. 

1.     Read novels. 
2.     Fill your mind with good stuff—basically the stuff you want to write about. 
3.     Figure out what will build ideas in your mind and what will kill ideas in your mind.
4.     Study.
5.     Teach. 
6.     Make the catharsis. 
7.     Write.

The development of ideas is based on study and research, but it is also based on creativity.  Creativity is the extrapolation of older ideas to form new ones or to present old ideas in a new form.  It is a reflection of something new created with ties to the history, science, and logic (the intellect).  Creativity requires consuming, thinking, and producing.

If we have filled our mind with all kinds of information and ideas, we are ready to become creative.  Creativity means the extrapolation of older ideas to form new ones or to present old ideas in a new form.  Literally, we are seeing the world in a new way, or actually, we are seeing some part of the world in a new way. 

I’ve worked through creativity and the protagonist.  The ultimate point is that if you properly develop your protagonist, you have created your novel.  I should move back to the initial scene, but I’ve been writing about showing and not telling in my short form blog, and I want to expand that out a bit in this blog.  Let’s move on to perhaps the most important feature of the novel: showing and not telling.

Novelists are not storytellers.  Novelists are story-showers.  I hope you have heard the fiction writer’s adage: show and don’t tell.  This is the most important aspect of the internal construction of the novel. 

I will reveal that in reviewing a recent self-published author’s book, I was compelled by the wholesale telling in the book, I can’t call it a novel, that I had to address each area where the author failed to show.  That’s where I came up with the following list:

Show and don’t tell.
Omniscient voice is poop.
Only write what the characters saw, tasted, felt, smelled, heard, said, or any action.
Identity is a problem.
Don’t tell.
It’s all about dialog.
Perfect tense can be a problem.
It’s all about the senses.
Don’t be boring.
Eating is living and dialog.
Creativity and senses.
Start with scene setting.
Make it sense setting.

So just what does it mean to show and not tell?  This seems to be a very difficult question for new writers as well as a source of contention for experienced writers.  It seems that many writers can’t agree or even concede on what showing vs. telling really means. Not to worry—I have the answer.

First of all, imagine the stage of the novel.  The stage of the novel is the setting (time, place, characters, and stuff).  I’ve written about this before.  A novel is not a stage play nor a screenplay, but a novel is visualized similarly to both.  Imaging the stage of the novel.  Now describe what the characters can see, hear, smell, taste, and physically feel (touch) on the stage of the novel.  Don’t describe anything else.  Don’t describe anything that can’t be seen, heard, smelled, tasted, or physically felt on the stage of the novel.  Don’t tell us about anything that can’t be physically seen, heard, smelled, tasted, or physically felt on the stage of the novel.  There is a lot you can show us in the setting of the stage.  This first part is the setting of the stage.

In setting the stage, the author is providing a description of the stage.  The setting of the stage, as I mentioned already is the time, place, characters, and stuff.  Describe the time.  What century, year, month, day, season, time of day is it.  Don’t pontificate on the importance of the time.  For example, if it is Easter, you don’t need to explain what Easter is.  The description Easter does it all.  You may use euphemisms, figures of speech, and other means to convey the time, but there is no reason to go beyond this.  The Easter explanation should suffice that is you don’t need to pontificate on the meaning of Easter.  You can use figures of speech in your description.  For example, you might write: it was the day God resurrected Christ from the dead.  This tells us that it is Easter and allows some description in the setting.  What you don’t want to do is go much further than this.   

Next, describe the place.  The order of the descriptions isn’t important, the content is.  Again, you may use euphemisms, figures of speech, and other means to convey the description, but don’t tell us, show us.  Describe what the viewer can see, hear, smell, taste, and physically feel and nothing else.  You may get into details such as: Glen knelt down and felt the soil.  It was dark and filled with loam.  He dug out a handful and crushed it in his fingers.  It was hard to believe this very soil had provided for his family for over five hundred years.  Do you see what I just did?  I showed you the soil and at the same time gave you more information than simple soil would.  Is this technically telling.  Technically, it’s still showing.  It is the soil and it is some omniscient voice, but this is perfectly okay.  What you don’t want to do is any of the following:

Glen thought what a wonderful crop he could grow this year.  No mind reading.

The soil had paid the bills for hundreds of years for Glen’s family.  It would continue to bankroll the farm for years in the future.  No prophecies.

The soil was ancient and filled with the bones of Glen’s ancestors.  The graves of forgotten farmers like Mike and George.  The bones of kith and kin like Mary and Ester.  No crazy details.  I’ll go for some description of the soil from the past, but details in this degree can’t be gathered from the soil.  Perhaps if you made a detailed DNA analysis—I’m joking.  The point is that descriptions that get much beyond seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling, or physically feeling are going much too far, and moving into showing. 

Next, the characters.  This is where showing is very important.         

The beginning of creativity is study and effort.  We can use this to extrapolate to creativity.  In addition, we need to look at recording ideas and working with ideas.    
More tomorrow.

For more information, you can visit my author site, and my individual novel websites:

fiction, theme, plot, story, storyline, character development, scene, setting, conversation, novel, book, writing, information, study, marketing, tension, release, creative, idea, logic

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