Next Meeting: Oct 9, 2013 – 1:00 pm
• Meeting Outline
Writer’s Craft – discussion and exercise
More about Show Don’t Tell See Article “Thought Verbs”
Discussion of writing terms (Jargon)
What are you doing – how is your progress – how can we help?
Readings – members share new work
Group Projects – Discuss potential projects
General discussion – writing topics, somewhere between Once upon a time and They lived happily ever after.
In six months, you’ll be a better writer.
From this point forward—at least for the next six months—you may not use “thought” verbs. These include: Thinks, Knows, Understands, Realizes, Believes, Wants, Remembers, Imagines, Desires, and a hundred others you love to use.
For six months, you can’t write: Kenny wondered if Monica didn’t like him going out at night…”
Instead, you’ll have to Un-pack that to something like: “The mornings after Kenny had stayed out, beyond the last bus, until he’d had to bum a ride or pay for a cab and got home to find Monica faking sleep, faking because she never slept that quiet, those mornings, she’d only put her own cup of coffee in the microwave. Never his.”
Instead of characters knowing anything, you must now present the details that allow the reader to know them. Instead of a character wanting something, you must now describe the thing so that the reader wants it.
Instead of saying: “Adam knew Gwen liked him.” You’ll have to say: “Between classes, Gwen had always leaned on his locker when he’d go to open it. She’d roll her eyes and shove off with one foot, leaving a black-heel mark on the painted metal, but she also left the smell of her perfume. The combination lock would still be warm from her butt. And the next break, Gwen would be leaned there, again.”
In short, no more short-cuts. Only specific sensory detail: action, smell, taste, sound, and feeling.
Typically, writers use these “thought” verbs at the beginning of a paragraph. In a way, they state the intention of the paragraph and what follows illustrates them.
“Brenda knew she’d never make the deadline. Traffic was backed up from the bridge, past the first eight or nine exits. Her cell phone battery was dead. At home, the dogs would need to go out, or there would be a mess to clean up. Plus, she’d promised to water the plants for her neighbor…”
Do you see how the opening statement steals the thunder of what follows? Don’t do it. If nothing else, cut the opening sentence and place it after all the others. Better yet, transplant it and change it to: Brenda would never make the deadline.
Thinking is abstract. Knowing and believing are intangible. Your story will always be stronger if you just show the physical actions and details of your characters and allow your reader to do the thinking, knowing, loving and hating.
Don’t tell your reader: “Lisa hated Tom.”
Write a brief paragraph, make your case like a lawyer in court, detail by detail.
One of the most-common mistakes that beginning writers make is leaving their characters alone. Writing, you may be alone. While reading, your audience may be alone. But your character should spend very little time alone because a solitary character starts thinking or worrying or wondering.
Don’t tell your reader: Waiting for the bus, Mark started to worry about how long the trip would take…”
Write a better break-down, you might begin with: “The schedule said the bus would come by at noon, but Mark’s watch said…
A character alone might lapse into fantasy or memory, but even then you can’t use “thought” verbs or any of their abstract relatives.
You can just forget about using the verbs Forget and Remember.
No more transitions such as: “Wanda remembered how Nelson used to brush her hair.”
Instead: “Back in their sophomore year, Nelson used to brush her hair with smooth, long strokes of his hand.”
Again, Un-pack. Don’t take short-cuts.
Better yet, get your character with another character, fast. Get them together and get the action started. Let their actions and words show their thoughts.
While you’re avoiding “thought” verbs, be very wary about using the bland verbs “is” and “have.”
“Ann’s eyes are blue.” or “Ann has blue eyes.”
“Ann coughed and waved one hand past her face, clearing the cigarette smoke from her eyes, blue eyes, before she smiled…”
Instead of bland “is” and “has” statements, try burying your details of what a character has or is, in actions or gestures.
Once you’ve learned to Un-pack your characters, you’ll hate the lazy writer who settles for: “Jim sat beside the telephone, wondering why Amanda didn’t call.”
For this month’s homework, pick through some of your writing and circle every “thought” verb. Then, find some way to eliminate it by un-packing it.
Then, pick through some published fiction and do the same thing. Be ruthless.
“Marty imagined fish, jumping in the moonlight…”
“Nancy recalled the way the wine tasted…”
“Larry knew he was a dead man…”
Find them. After that, find a way to re-write them. Make them stronger.
Credits: This paper constructed from an article by Chuck Palahniuk
See you October 9, 2013 – 1:00 pm