Monday, February 27, 2012

Show Not Tell: The Not-So-Simple Art of Showing

Like all advice, telling someone to “show not tell” is easier said than done. What exactly does this mean?


Rule # 1 – “Limit the passive voice.” Replace the following verbs:  am, is, are, was, were, be, being, been, with verbs that actually show the action or demonstrate the feeling. The key word here is REPLACE; don’t just eliminate the passive verb.  Often while transforming the passive verbs into active verbs, the sentences have to be restructured and combined, thus creating a strong “showing” sentence.  

Rule # 2 – Use the senses - sight, smell, taste, hearing (sounds), feeling (emotion) and touch - , to convey action or emotion.  Don’t limit its use to one facet.  For example, sight can encompass all the visual stimuli in your setting. It is not just what the character is seeing, but also the subtleties happening in the surroundings, and the actions and reactions of the other characters in the scene.   

Rule # 3 – Because the medium for writers is THE PAGE, be aware of how the page looks and what the reader sees:

Sentences – Film uses music or lighting to create mood and tone; writers use sentences of varying length and structure to achieve the same. For example, consider the beat and intensity of a short, quick sentence versus a long languorous sentence.

Punctuation/spacing/other visual marks – These signal or cue different pauses and lapse in time, feelings and movement, introspection and dialogue, etc.

Dialogue/inner dialogue - The eye naturally gravitates to dialogue on the page, making its use and placement very important.  Of equal importance are the tags or action beats that accompany it.

Rule # 4 – “Practice makes perfect.”  One last piece of clich├ęd advice: The more these practices become part of the writer’s natural process and voice, the easier it will be to develop techniques to “show not tell.”

Monday, February 20, 2012

Rethinking Retirement

          One should never retire “from” a job; one should retire “to” something.  Sure you officially resigned or quit from a position, and everyone gave you a retirement party (hopefully), but what comes after?

          And there is an after.  For most of us, it will span 20-30 years after we leave the daily grind.  That is a long time if you don’t plan for it.

1.     Are you financially able to retire?  Do you have a savings or retirement account? Are you planning a second career or a part-time job?

Sorry, but without money, full retirement is not in your immediate future.

2.    Are you planning some sort of health routine?  You certainly want to spend the majority of your remaining life span in good health, so make sure you consider a consistent health routine and a healthy diet.  This includes visits to the doctor and the dentist.

3.    Have you discussed your retirement plans with your spouse, partner, and/or family?  Include them in your plans, so there is no misunderstanding about how you will spend your time (and what you are willing to do for them). 

4.    Are you scheduling activities that will continue to help you grow socially, mentally, and emotionally? After having been out in the work force for all those years with all those people, you don’t want to suddenly become a hermit, secluded from all outside contact. 

5.    Finally, let’s get to the bucket list – what activities do you enjoy that you will now be able to spend more time doing?  What pursuits have you always wanted to do that you now have time to accomplish? Once the newness of retirement wears off, it might be a good idea to check off some of those “to do’s” on your bucket list.  What are you waiting for?  Get off your bucket and get to them. You aren’t getting any younger.  

Monday, February 13, 2012

Feng Shui on my Farm

When I tell folks that I live on three acres out in the countryside in an old farm house surrounded by miles and miles of farmland, they get all starry-eyed and moon-faced.  They are picturing Tara or the Ponderosa and not listening closely to what I said.   

One, the miles and miles of farmland belong to our neighbor; we own three acres that form an odd puzzle piece in the bottom right hand of that expanse.

Two, when I say I live in an old farm house, it is exactly that, nothing more.  I. Live. In. An. Old. Farm.  House. Picture this: sturdy, rectangular box; partially rusted, metal roof; shingle-siding that was once blue and is now an indescribable color.

I pictured my Del Webb days in a city condo or in a cute little bedroom community garden home. Not this.  

There are five buildings on this Garden of Eden and none of them match.  Remember I am a city girl.  When we buy a home, we go to Home Depot and buy the matching backyard shed.  We coordinate our surroundings – the decking matches the house trim; the yard ornaments accent the flora. 

On these three acres, there are two large metal shop buildings where my husband houses his lucrative, woodworking business, an unsightly bird loft where HoneyBunch raises pigeons (don’t ask), and two houses – ours and a rental that is presently unoccupied.

In a stretch the two metal buildings could sub for urban backyard sheds, and the bird loft (molting feathers and all) and an old truck that one of the kids abandoned on the premises could sub for yard ornaments, but only if EVERYTHING got a good coat of paint. Maybe two.

Why do I live here?

I moved here almost six years ago because it is what is inside that makes up for the lack of outdoor Feng Shui.  He is 5’8”, smiles a lot, and calls me Goddess, and every time he walks inside to grab a cup of coffee and a kiss, I know I am home.

Monday, February 6, 2012

THE TAZAS BOOK CLUB

 
We started calling it The Tazas Book Club simply because we meet at a local coffee shop with that name.

We average four to six members, inducting new ones only when our group gets too small to make the discussion interesting. We choose a new book by acclamation, and then give ourselves 4-6 weeks to read it.

We started off without much guidance; other than we were all writers and wanted to discuss the craft of writing through the works of published authors.

If we’ve learned anything – it is that we are no different than any other book clubber, writer or not. We each respond viscerally to the assigned book.  We don’t always agree on our tastes, and we don’t all glean the same knowledge from the book. We are living examples of Louise Rosenblatt’s Reader-Response Theory: each getting a different meaning from what we read because we each bring different experiences and beliefs to the text. 

In the past, I’ve barely escaped being lynched for daring to like The Friday Night Knitting Club (and its jumbled use of words and sentences), or for not liking Bel Canto (because it romanticizes the Stockholm Syndrome). I couldn’t finish The Eyre Affair orThe Heroines because they were too incredible for my taste, and I was nearly expelled from the group. (If it wasn’t that we basically like each other and we were down in membership at the time, I would have been a goner for sure.)

          For this reason, I offer you The Tazas Book Club List for 2011 (in alpha order by title) without assigning them a rating. 

·       Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

·       The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

·       The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde

·       The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton

·       The Friday Night Knitting Club by Kate Jacobs

·       The Help by Kathryn Stockett

·       The Heroines by Eileen Favorite

·       The Homecoming of Samuel Lake by Jenny Wingfield

·       Room by Emma Donoghue