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TIMELY PERSUASION

Unfortunately, I don’t need more persuasion…

By G.S. Williams, editor, author of The Surprising Life and Death of Diggory Franklin

Oct 1, 2008: There is a too-often cited "writing tip" and that is "show, don’t tell." The idea is, you write a scene to "show" readers what you mean, instead of "telling" them.

So, in simplistic terms, you don’t tell them "he was a nice guy," you show a nice guy:

"He stood up on the bus to let the little old lady take his place, and then he carried her groceries."

Simple, right?

A "Timely Persuasion" doesn’t show you much in the first chapter. It tells you. A lot. Here’s an excerpt:

"I had always been rather protective of my sister. This protectiveness most often manifested itself when it came to her selected boyfriends. Nobody was ever quite good enough, and my opinion was always voiced. Too mean, too smart, too arrogant, too nice, too mundane, too reclusive, too fake, too erratic of a speech pattern, too promiscuous, etc. The list of faults went on and on."

The narrator likes telling you that there are lists of faults, and that he told his sister all of them in regards to her boyfriends. However, in the first chapter, there’s not one line of dialogue, nor does the author show a scene of action between characters. There’s just paragraphs of telling, and the list of faults in that type of writing could go on and on. I don’t have much interest in writing that kind of review. Especially when the protagonist’s complaints about the boyfriends equally apply to his own flaky personality.

The writer’s strengths rest on the ability to write the protagonist’s philosophical inner monologue. Unfortunately monologues don’t make for interesting stories, and 5 chapters in, what "story" there is, is fairly unoriginal and not showing much potential for more.

Good writing requires as much "showing" as possible. A good story also requires conflict, and the driving force of the protagonist’s journey through time is supposed to be his sister’s death. But, in the early going anyway, it doesn’t seem like he cares all that much, making it hard for a reader to connect to the espoused purpose of the story.

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