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Thursday's thing to love...epiphany!

Cheryl's Musings: Thursday's thing to love...epiphany!

Cheryl's Musings

How to Thrive on the Writer's Road


Thursday's thing to love...epiphany!

A few days ago, I zipped through the latest Stephanie Plum book by Janet Evanovich (adult mystery, not children's lit, but a fun read!)--and had an epiphany about my own writing.

An epiphany of the obvious, I guess, since it can be boiled down to this well-known writing mantra: SHOW DON'T TELL. If you've been studying the writing craft very long, you've heard this advice--but sometimes the application is less obvious.

In Lean Mean Thirteen, I noticed that Evanovich handled scene changes with minimal fuss. She skips from whatever's interesting at the end of one scene to something interesting at the start of the next scene. For ex:

"Nope. Gotta go. I have phone work to do."


Joe Morelli is my off-again, on-again boyfriend.

There are no stage directions, no extra words, nothing that's not important to the story. She does the same thing with dialog. Once she establishes who is speaking, she interrupts the dialog with few tags or description. Here's another ex:

"...or are you just making conversation?"
"I was thinking about the leftover spaghetti."
"Bob and I ate it for breakfast."
"In that case, I'll bring dinner," Morelli said. "Do you have a preference? Chinese? Pizza? Fried chicken?"
"Surprise me."

Here's where my epiphany came in. I was having trouble with the opening for my current WIP, Juggling the Keystone. It started with a scene description:

When the globe arced into Chirp’s juggling pattern, she thought it part of her act. Onlookers often tossed her oddments to juggle—potatoes, candlesticks, apples—which Sal batted into position for her. The cara-cat had even faster reflexes than Chirp’s. Soon he’d be too large to sit on her shoulder, which was a pity. With his golden fur and tufted ears, he attracted more notice than the juggling act. Few people had seen a real cara-cat.

...but it wasn't quite working and I wasn't sure why. Too much info? Not enough voice? Reading Evanovich's writing inspired the following change:

Watch for it!

Chirp had a half-breath’s warning before Sal’s claws tightened and his weight shifted on her shoulder. Then the cara-cat’s paw flashed and he batted a dark object into her juggling pattern. Chirp caught it—a cold globe, apple-sized and surprisingly heavy—and flipped it high. The other balls she sent into a tight, fast cascade beneath.

Instead of starting with scene description, I started IN the scene, with the action. Showing instead of telling. Huh. Sometimes I think that writers don't need NEW writing advice--we just need to keep practicing the tried-and-true pillars of the craft.

:) Cheryl

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