Trust your Readers

As happens every six hours, AM talk radio had begun to depress my mood. There was nothing on FM to sing along with. The silence was too much to bear, considering I’d been alone all day.

A small voice came from the back seat. “Mom, I want to read to you.”

“That would be great! Let’s go.”

A rustling of pages ensued and my 10-year-old daughter started, “The animorphosisms stood before me. Around each one was an extremely disgusting pile of slime.”

“Honey?” I interrupted. “What did the pile of slime look like?”

She thought for a moment and responded, “It was disgusting.”

“Yes, but what color was it? Did it smell? Was it moving? Was it making any sounds?”

“I don’t know. It doesn’t say.” She turned the page forward and back again. “It’s just disgusting…that’s it.”

This reminded me that, in my own writing, I must remember to strive for a “show, don’t tell” process and product. Regardless of the age of the reader, the author must remember that the reader will feel much more satisfied — more fulfilled and willing to keep on reading — if he or she feels a part of the deductions made in every story, every chapter…every paragraph. Don’t tell your readers that something is disgusting. Tell them that the pile of flesh-pink and mold-green, coagulated material moved with sucking waves of nauseating slurp and expelled clouds of stink — stink that could only be duplicated by plunging 3 dozen rotten eggs into a vat of decaying skunk flesh.

creative-writing

Trust your readers and they’ll trust you. Give them the information they need to draw their own conclusions — and if the information is crafted with heart and plenty of thought, their deductions will match your expectations.

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Food for Fiction: Newspaper Funnies

Where do you get your short story and novel ideas? No matter your chosen genre, you might look to authentic life for subject matter…and where better to find real life than in the newspaper? There, you’ll find the best, and most often the worst, of this pack we call humanity. When I have the occasion to generate a short story (the bills aren’t stopping, and therefore neither is my ghostwriting), I like to consult local and national newspapers for help with sparking story ideas.  Today, I stumbled across some funny headlines and couldn’t help searching for some of their twisted cousins. Here are my favorites:

  • One-armed man applauds the kindness of strangers
  • Caskets found as workers demolish mausoleum
  • Alton attorney accidentally sues himself
  • Condom truck tips, spills load
  • Man eats underwear to beat breathalyzer
  • Sewage spill kills fish, but water safe to drink
  • Panda mating fails; veterinarian takes over
  • Marijuana issue sent to joint committee
  • Students cook & serve grandparents
  • Hippo eats dwarf
  • Lost:  African elephant
  • Topeka cemetery clean-up in need of volunteers:  A light lunch to follow provided by Waste Management of Kansas
  • Tight end returns after colon surgery
  • Miracle cure kills fifth patient
  • All you need to know about Obama’s package
  • A-Rod goes deep, Wang hurt
  • Hooker named lay person of the year
  • Blind man denied Minn. gun permit
  • Statistics show that teen pregnancy drops off significantly after age 25

Deeper probing took me to the police blotters:

  • A deputy responds to a report of a vehicle stopping at mail boxes. It was the mailman.
  • Wal-Mart: Police receive a report of a newborn infant found in a trash can. Upon investigation, officers discover it was only a burrito.
  • The Learning Center on Hanson Street reports a man across the way stands at his window for hours watching the center, making parents nervous. Police ID the subject as a cardboard cutout of Arnold Schwarzenegger.

And I have to give proper credit to the classifieds:

  • Human skull, used once only. Not plastic. $200 OBO
  • Full size mattress, Royal Tonic, 20 year warranty. Like new. Slight urine smell. $40
  • Potty chair, solid oak, light brown stain

Quick — grab a pen. By the time your diaphragm stops cramping, you’ll have come up with a storyline involving a Hannibal-Lecter-wanna-be mailman who delivers special-recipe burritos, or a veterinarian who learns to embrace both the yin and the yang. Come on — if you write it, I’ll read it.

Nothing to Write with

If I disjoint my vision, bid it stop searching for a glimmer in the blackness or a curvature on which to land, I’ll see. If I can stop my panicked ears from grasping out for some sound, any tumult, no matter how small, I’ll hear. If I take away food, if I allow my mouth to cleave […]

Writer Inspiration through Vicarious Creation

If I’m ghosting for a week, writing articles about the side effects of antiquated amitriptyline or the evolution of human teeth, I find it nearly impossible to settle into writing a short story or even a simple journal entry. Conversely, if I’m on a sleepless reading jag, chest-deep in poetic prose and an old, revered story, I […]

Your Short Story: Getting There or Getting Where?

Before you start writing your short story, ask yourself, “How does it end?” Sound strange? Imagine this:  You gather your belongings, lock the house, get in the car, start the engine, and…tap the steering wheel with your thumbs, contemplating the fact that you have no place to go. Why would you have gotten into the car […]

Cliche: Plagiarism out on Parole?

Writers create. We struggle to dream what hasn’t yet been dreamed; to fashion something with our brains that is strange and wonderful and utterly fantastic to the senses. It must have never before existed until it was conceived of our minds; birthed by our hands. All that sounds terribly romantic. But occasionally, even the best writer […]

Show Don’t Tell: an Excuse to Stare and Eavesdrop

Your creative writing teacher said, “Show Don’t Tell.” All the advice you’ve read on honing your fiction repeated, “Show Don’t Tell.” And just when you thought you couldn’t stand another piece of advice that you’re helpless to employ, a blog writer writes, “Show Don’t Tell.” I know, I know. What does Show Don’t Tell even mean? […]