Monday, July 26, 2010

Monday Mulligan Stew- Show vs Telling

I've read some things lately that while the writing was good grammatically and punctuation was good, the story was lacking. It wasn't the lack of premise. The premise was interesting. It was the delivery.

Characters that should have jumped off the page weren't. The sentences lulled me into a comatose state and I had to force myself to keep reading. The reason? The story was told with lots of passive sentence structure that didn't make the story immediate and therefore didn't draw me in.

Today's readers are used to a fast paces world with action and dialog going on all around them. A slow moving story isn't going to capture their attention. I don't mean you have to have "action" as in car chases and such, but you need to keep the wording active and moving forward.

Sarah was going to stop at the store but changed her mind. - passive
Sarah planned to stop at the store, but her realization she told Beth she'd be home right after work kept her driving.

What's in the second sentence that isn't in the first? Besides non-passive phrasing? Conflict. The more you can write conflict into a story the more the reader wants to read it. And conflict always moves the story along in a way passive voice can't. And the second sentence shows you why she changed her mind.

Watch the over use of was and ing words that is a sign you might have a passive sentence and always show what the character is thinking and doing rather than tell. It will make your writing stronger and the reader happier.


M Pax said...

This one takes practice for the new writer. :) But it does make the story come alive. Great advice and great example.

Paty Jager said...

Thanks, Mary! I agree it is something that needs to be learned. But it will help sell stories.