08 August 2009 ~ 2 Comments

Writing lessons — hide the ball

Beginners often don’t know what information to reveal and what information to hide. Especially in science fiction and fantasy, writers have to set up a world as well as characters and a plot (which makes me wonder why mainstream literature underestimates SF/F so badly, but there you go). While we are told to “show, not tell,” beginners often try to show everything, which means they end up hiding everything.

Another part of this is cleverness, as I’ve discussed before. We are often trying so hard to ah ha! the reader to the detriment of our story, that we try to hide everything. It’s not just that the heroes are five-toed sloths, they are five-toed sloths on a water world, and they are blind. (Gross exaggeration, No one has ever done this to my knowledge.)

My suggestion is this. Tell the story as if you had nothing to hide. Sure, your first go-round might have a little too much telling, but that’s what editing is for. So now you have a story where there are no secrets except for what happens next. And what happens next is that the reader is powerfully caught up in your tale. They don’t have to worry about deciphering everything about your characters and your world. They just have to be absorbed in your plot.

And that’s the whole point. Not cleverness. Not the slow reveal. A reader caught up in your plot.

Give it a try next time you sit down to write. See what happens.

2 Responses to “Writing lessons — hide the ball”

  1. Chris Warren 12 August 2009 at 3:18 am Permalink

    Good advice, exactly how I approached my recently published book, Randolph’s Challenge Book One – The Pendulum Swings, which is the first book of a fantasy trilogy.

    However, I would add one other very important point. As well as getting the reader caught up in your plot, make your characters believable, so that the reader can identify with them – some they will like, some they will dilike, but they have to be credible. If you don’t do this, even the best plot in the world will only get read to page ten or eleven before being discarded.

    Chris Warren
    Author and Freelance Writer
    Randolph’s Challenge Book One – The Pendulum Swings

  2. Patrice Sarath 12 August 2009 at 8:39 am Permalink

    Good point! Maybe making believable characters should be the next lesson. We all have favorite characters that we know and like — or dislike. What makes them so real and three-dimensional?

    Anyone want to weigh in with favorite characters?


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