Wednesday, April 1, 2020

New Authors: The World Revolves Around You

What makes your world your world
Rebecca Mikkelson, CBD Authors 4 Authors Publishing
Well, hello there. Welcome back to us talking about world building. If you missed it last year, you can find all of what we’re talking about in further detail here, but we’re just going to be hitting just the highlights in this post. For the sake of brevity, I want to cover what I think are the five most important things to think about when you start your world building. 

Your World

The first thing you need to do when starting your world building is in the name: the world. 

The top three things I always advise people to think about when creating just the basics of their world are what kind of people they’ll have, how time works, and what kind of land they’ll have. The latter is absolutely the most important. This is where you’ll decide if you’re going to have an earth-like environment or if you’re going to have something completely different than what we know. This could mean anything from odd plants and animals to literally living in space on a different planet, moon, or even in a different solar system. 

As for your people, that can vary as easily as your planet. You could have all animals as your cast, fantasy creatures such as elves and dwarves, or you could stick to plain ol’ humans. Or you could have a mix of all three and see who kills whom first see who becomes the dominant species see what happens.  

Lastly, because I apparently like to work in reverse order, how does time work in your world? This is important based on where you choose your location. Will your year be 365 days as it is on earth, or are you on another planet where one revolution around the sun is a single day and your people only live to be ninety days old? And how will time be marked? There are nearly as many calendars as there are countries in the world, so it’s truly a decision with no downside.
The land itself some sections, you’re going to have extras snuck in that pertain to the main section, so you’re welcome for being indefatigable. This is how we ended up with our original eighteen-part series on world building in the first place. 
This decision is purely contingent on what type of world you choose (earth or not-earth). This is where you’re figuring out your geography, climate, and how they affect the local people, plants, and animals. If you’re living somewhere in the mountains, your resources and climate will not be the same as if you were living near an ocean or a desert. Knowing what your people will have to face will help you shape what your people will want, need, and thrive with.
As mentioned above, where your people live is going to affect what kind of climate they have and what they eat. If you’ve got people living in very fertile land, they can become a very rich people in terms of resources and not have to worry about how to feed themselves in anything other than very severe drought or epic natural disasters. 

There are also several other things to think about with food: are there any sort of delicacies that only the nobility can afford to eat; are there any feasting days that are celebrated by all; and do the working class hunt for their own food so that they don’t have to pay as much out of their monthly wages—or even sell their game to make more money during the year?

This could easily get drawn into commerce and trade, but if you want to read about that, go ahead and follow the link at the top of the page because I promise if I go on too much longer, I’ll add every single subject I can in this blog post. 


Governments, love them or hate them, are a necessary plot point. You might say, “But mine’s post-apocalyptic dystopian, there is no government!” Well, honey, that’s a plot point; why did your government fall? Was it an invasion or revolution ending with Madame Guillotine?

First things first, you want to figure out what kind of government you want to have. There are plenty of examples throughout history, and in the post where I’ve covered government before, you can learn about eight different types and find real-world and book examples of them. What’s also important to know is, what does your government actually do for your people? Do they keep the cities clean, or is that relegated to its inhabitants? Offer library services to aid in the education of its people? Lastly, you’ll want to think about what kind of legal systems are in place and how your governments make laws. 
Government and politics go hand in hand. Love it or hate it, politics makes the world go ’round. 

When it comes to your politicians, you’ll want to think of a couple of things: how long they stay in office, what kind of political parties that you have in your world, and what kind of foreign relations there are. Also, depending on the type of government you’ve chosen (read: monarchy), if you have any sort of political marriages that strengthen alliances. 

Also depending on what kind of government you choose, the defense of the county comes down to the government’s discretion. Here in the United States, one cannot enter a war without congressional approval. (Laugh all you want; thems the rules, even if we do habitually break them.) However, if you’ve chosen a monarchy, particularly one set in the past where the delegation of power to duchies, clans, or whatever you want to write about was prominent, you can easily have wars the head government is not a part of. 

Your time period will also dictate how wars are fought—guerilla warfare versus Napoleonic warfare versus chemical warfare versus siege warfare (there are a lot of types of warfare, okay? People be killin’ people since people existed), and on and on until everyone’s dead. You’ll also need to figure out what type of weapons will be used that are appropriate for the world that you built.

All of that is really to say: who decides who fights, who is in charge of it, and how do they fight? 


Religion is a complicated and diverse subject that can take years of discussion without getting all the fine points hammered out. 

What you’ll want to think about for your world is what kind of religion—if any—you want for your people. Will your world be dominated by a monotheistic god, or will you have polytheism present? Or both? You aren’t trapped in one religion, and it makes a story wonderfully rich and diverse if you don’t stick to just a single religion. 

You’ll also want to think about how religion influences the ethics and values of your world. Your hackles might be rising at the last, saying, “You don’t have to be religious to have ethics and values!” You’re right; you don’t. However, oftentimes, they go hand in hand and influence far more of your day-to-day life, even if you aren’t a follower of that faith, than you think it does. 


Our whole lives revolve around our cultures, whether we realize it or not. We have rituals for births and deaths and everything in between. We also have customs for how we generally treat people—everyone’s heard of Southern Hospitality—to how we greet them, and even how we visit with each other. For every decision you make when it comes to daily customs and rituals, make sure that it fits the narrative of the culture that you want. You would not have a particularly aggressive culture doing dainty little rituals and vice versa, more subdued cultures having particularly brutal rituals.


Having magic in your world is a lot more complicated than just saying, “Let there be magic!” and then resting on Sunday. 

There are several things that you’ll need to think about while creating your rules of magic. First, who can actually do magic? Is it just any old person, or are only certain people blessed with the ability? And, if only certain people can create magic, can a non-magical person use a magicked item, such as a curse or a magical gardening tool?

Next, you’ll want to think about the consequences of magic. Does the magic user have to draw the power from themselves—if they use too much, can they wind up dead? Do they have an opposing force against them while they cast so if they lift a bolder, will they end up sinking in the ground? 

Lastly, how will your baby magicians be taught? Will there be covens of witches that each have their own brand of magic? Will you have a wizarding school à la Harry Potter? Is skill taught from parent to child? There are so many options you can choose from, but whatever you pick, make sure it fits within the world that you’ve crafted. 
Speaking of education…

Education is an important part of society as a whole—it’s how we make advancements, and the more people who have knowledge readily available, the quicker that happens. There are four things you’ll want to think about while you’re implementing the education of your world: who is educated, who does the education, where are the people educated, and what is taught?

Depending on the time period you’ve gone with, only the upper class are afforded the right to an education. Will it be like that in your world? Will education be free for all, up to and including college? The time period can also determine who will be teaching and where students will be taught: historically, governesses and tutors would teach the rich in their homes until they completed their education, but your world can easily have state-mandated schools with teachers from all backgrounds. 

All in all, for whatever world building you’re doing in your story, make sure that it serves the story that you want to tell. 

Thanks for reading more than you bargained for, and join us next week when I talk about themes.

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Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Misused Advice: Limit Your POV

For today’s post, please welcome our guest Lisa Borne Graves, author of The Immortal Transcripts and Celestial Spheres series.

Every piece of advice that we’re going to talk about in this series has good intentions at its origin, but has evolved into something either misused or inviolable. “Limit your POV” has become the former. To combat head-hopping, one of the first pieces of advice in creative writing—not a rule—is to limit your points-of-view. By focusing on only a couple characters, it is harder to accidentally head-hop. But is that always sound advice? Some would say this advice has gone too far, making the automatic response to the concept of multiple POVs a grievous sin.


Head-hopping is when the author jarringly moves from within one character’s head into another, confusing the reader. It mainly happens in third-person POVs, but can also happen when an author switches from third- to first-person. For a better understanding of POVs, take a look at the Points of View Series. Head-hopping should not be confused with well done omniscient POV where the narrator can see into many characters’ heads and is able to discern the switches. In visual terms, head-hopping would be like watching a movie where the camera was from someone’s perspective then shifts to another without warning or does not seamlessly transition.  

How to Choose Your POVs

There are advantages and disadvantages to both limiting and expanding the number of POVs. You’ll want to ask yourself what the needs of your story are as this choice will affect your story in multiple ways at once.
Character Distance
You might want to limit POVs to keep close to a character. It helps readers align and sympathize with certain characters. Seeing inside the main characters’ minds can be essential to understanding their motivations or gaining sympathy, while too many characters could dilute those connections the reader makes with the characters, distancing them. One POV can be problematic as well. Only having one character option can be straightforward, but it also can make a reader put the book down; if readers do not like the character or can’t connect, they have no other option.
If the goal is for the reader to keep distant, more character POV could help. More also adds layers to the novel in conflict, characterization, tension, and/or tone.
Mystery vs Anticipatory Tension
Fewer POVs hide twists. Some genres like mysteries and thrillers are almost always single POV, even as romantic sub-genres, because more would reveal too much information to the reader. 
More POVs can create dramatic irony (when the reader is privy to information from one character that the others don’t know). While the reader awaits character epiphanies, it creates page-turning tension. With only one or two POV’s, that could be lost. 
Establish Tone
There comes a time where limiting POV can completely stifle creativity and lose the richness of a narrative. The POV of characters determines the writing’s tone, and each unique voice added changes the overall feel. Having only one POV sets that tone for the entire piece. Adding more can create different feelings—pessimistic, sad, uplifting, humorous, serious, etc. It could be beneficial to change it up, like an uplifting POV to break up a perpetually sad POV.
Example: Quiver 
This novel has four first-person POVs: three gods and a mortal girl. They are divided up into chapters labeled with their names. Two characters have more chapters than the others. The most important thing about this choice is they each have a purpose. Lucien knows more than everyone else; he is the readers’ informant. The info he shares with us creates anticipatory tension. Archer is an MC, so he shows us the conflict first hand, and seeing his struggles from his POV is critical. Aroha is elemental in showing the complexity of living dual lives; she is also some comedic relief when all other characters are serious. Last is Callie, the other MC, the one most teen readers will want to align with. She is a mirror of the reader, wading into a fantasy world. The reader simultaneously dreads and desires her to solve the mysteries around her.
While querying, I was asked by a few agents to revise and resubmit with only two POVs (the lovers) or one POV (mortal girl). They were abiding by this advice to limit POVs. The novel would’ve lost irony and the personal conflicts of the gods. The largest issue with limiting POVs for this novel was it would’ve caused a massive tonal shift, destroying the rich tapestry of immortal personality and backstory. The gods have a mortal front, but hidden behind is a complex being; without the character Aroha, for example, the book would’ve been darker, without those comedic uplifts she creates. It would’ve watered down a complex narrative into something unoriginal and a bit too sad. I chose not to limit my characters and waited for the right publisher to come along who shared my vision.


There are ways to write omniscient POV well or include multiple POVs. Some common organizational or formatting tricks are separating characters per chapter (probably a must with multiple first-person), using gaps in text to mark shifts, and/or (in third-person) using the character’s name in the first sentence. Another option is labeling chapters—if characters are separated—by name or theme. There are many other options, but the point is to make the transition from one mind to another clear-cut.

So How Many?

Sorry, there’s no magic number as this would be forcing advice gone astray into a rule. Better advice than automatically limiting POVs might be to examine each POV’s purpose, meaning there should be a well-thought reason for every POV. Show us the villain’s mind to humanize him/her? Solid. Give us two characters’ POVs in a romance to create a he-said/she-said narrative? Great. But if there is any other way to show a minor character’s thoughts and emotions through actions and words, you might want to examine that option first.

Have you ever heard writing advice that seemed odd? Let us know on Twitter or Facebook! Keep an eye out for next month’s Misused Writing Advice: Don’t Use Adverbs.

And join us next week for an interview with B. B. Morgan, author of Thief in the Castle, to talk about the upcoming sequel, Mage in the Undercity.

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Wednesday, March 18, 2020

New Authors: Setting the Stage

The setting within your story
Rebecca Mikkelson, CBD Authors 4
You might think this is the same thing as world building, and it sort of is, but the setting is more of the minute details within a story. The biggest difference between the two is that your setting is where a scene takes place, and world building is where your story exists, but the latter will still affect the former.  

Where is your character?

First thing’s first: where’s your character? No one is in a void…unless they are, but even that is a setting that needs development. When you’re writing where your characters are, your reader only knows as much as you tell them. I want to talk a little bit about setting in a micro and a macro level. 
When you’re writing your scene, keep in mind that your setting is going to affect your character in a big way. Maybe your character is a small-town girl who is moving to the big city, and she’s just arrived. She’s going to be scared, unsure of exactly how to handle herself around a buncha high-falutin’ city folk, and possibly wishing that she had never moved in the first place because it’s just so much. 
On the flip side, if you put someone who is used to finery into some podunk town with dirt and what they could consider to be “simple folk,” it’s going to be hell on earth for them, adjusting to their surroundings. Think Schitt’s Creek and how the Rose family is in complete shock and denial the moment they set foot into their new home, and it takes them ages to adjust. Dan Levy has done a beautiful job of showing how the setting affects the characters.  
We have to remember in the small details to write as readers rather than writers and not keep it all in our heads. These are going to be the smells, sounds, temperature, even if there’s dust floating in the sunlight coming through the window when a character disturbs an old book. Every move that your character makes is interacting with the setting you have, and the reader needs to know how that happens. As mentioned in the “Show, Don’t Tell” blog post, however, you don’t have to go overboard describing the small things in the room, but we do need to see what the character is seeing. 

Oh, God, it’s the outside!

Inevitably, your character is going to be going outside during your story, unless your story is set entirely on a space station in which there is no going outside, but those will be the exceptions to this. Just like in the section above, your character is going to be affected by what’s happening in the out of doors. So what is your outside going to do?
The first thing you’ll want to think about is the weather. There are many ways the weather can affect your characters: Is it going to be hot? Cold? Rainy? Is it going to rain on your character while they’re traveling and put them in a bad mood?
Your weather can entirely change your scene from romantic to miserable very easily. For example, two lovers who are on a picnic for a romantic proposal could have their moment ruined by a sudden torrent of rain. Or, on a more dangerous scale, your character could have to travel in a sudden heatwave and end up with heatstroke. 
Ugh, bugs. Bugs are a huge reason why I don’t go outside. Nature is chock full of pests and beautiful things, there is no escaping them until the winter, and even then, there are still insects that are active in cold temperatures. 
A lot of times, we don’t give our characters the option of choosing where they are, and we make them miserable because authors suffer from Schadenfreude when it comes to our characters. So, when your characters are outside, what kind of pests are there to bother them? Do you have bees in the garden that your character is severely allergic to? Gnats flying at your character’s eyes while they try to find their way?

Keeping track of time

This is something a lot of authors struggle with both in the short term and the long term. Readers need to be aware of how time is passing, and we can drop hints in there without having to say, “Now that it’s evening.” Tell your reader how the moon is starting to come out, and the air is chilling a bit. Or, if your lovers have been talking all night, talk about how the birds are waking up, and their chirps are interrupting the character’s chatting.
In the long term, your reader—and characters—need to know what time of year it is. This will determine where your characters are going, what they’re wearing, how their friendships are developing, and the list goes on. The longer a character is in a place, the more the reader needs to know how time is passing with them. 
Lastly, if you’re writing a story that takes more than one book to tell, make sure to show the time changes on your character. Has your character started to get wrinkles around their eyes? White in their brows and hair? We need to make sure that our characters keep up with the story and aren’t stuck in a perpetual void of youth.  

Join us next week for the next installment of our Misused Writing Advice series where we talk about limiting your points of view. 

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Wednesday, March 11, 2020

New Authors: Who are you talking to?

Writing dialogue in your book
Rebecca Mikkelson, CBD Authors 4 Authors Publishing
The dialogue of your book is what makes it unique. Yes, your world and your plot can as well, but when it comes down to it, in this day and age, almost every story has been told already. They’re just packed in new and different ways. 

How do your characters talk?

There are books, upon books, upon books out there on how to write dialogue within your story to make it believable and enrich your world. I want to focus on three things I think writers struggle with the most. 
Regional dialect
In a fantasy world, it’s hard to get a dialect just right. Whose rules and accents do you follow? Do you make up your own or listen to people from different regions speak until you think you can write it with consistency?
It’s hard to tell, if I’m being honest. You might be able to make your own by mixing similar dialects and cherrypicking your favorite isms and slang, but you would need to make sure that they’re similar enough that your character doesn’t sound like they don’t know where they are. That might be a fun twist for an amnesiac character, but in general, it’s going to feel like you didn’t edit well enough in your finished project.  
If you’re wanting to create your own language and give it its own flair, you can check out our worldbuilding blog post on language to get a jumping-off point. 
Speaking style
Each character is going to have their own speaking style and personality, and your reader should be able to pick up on it fairly easily. For example, you might have a character who’s Oxford-educated, who is naturally going to speak with a broader vocabulary than someone who didn’t graduate high school. (Before you bite my head off, there are many exceptions to this statement, but these blogs are always written in generalized statements.) 
Or maybe you have a character who has a habitual turn of phrase or a specific word they say with annoying consistency, such as my nephew who regularly says, “Well, actually,” when he wants to correct someone in all of his seven-year-old wisdom. Which leads me to my next point...
This is one that I run into the most when I’m reading books or submissions: there’s a child in the scene, and the child speaks in the same manner as an adult. There are some very intelligent children out there, but a general rule of thumb is that children speak as children. 
This is the same as for an elderly character. Language changes by the day, much as we dislike it. My grandmother wouldn’t ask for gossip by saying “spill the tea” as much as a teen of today wouldn’t ask someone to “chew the fat” to catch up on each other’s lives. 

Believable Dialogue

Believable dialogue is hard. It’s really hard, you guys. 
There isn’t really one simple trick to get believable dialogue in your writing, frustrating as that might be. Even authors that have been writing for decades can sometimes struggle with writing a smooth-talking character or swoon-worthy love confessions. It’s just plain old difficult. 
But, there is hope. There are a few things that you can do to help yourself along, and they are pretty easy: 
  • Read your dialogue aloud to yourself or act out the scene to get just the right mood for the words.
  • Ask a friend to read the dialogue you’re unsure about.
  • Have multiple people critique your work. 
The last one might seem like it would be hard, but there are plenty of people out in the world willing to be critique partners or alpha/beta readers for you. If you’re looking for a place to get started on that, try out Scribophile, a free or premium site that’s filled to the brim with authors in various stages of skill who are all there for the same reason you are. 

I don’t know what to do with my hands!

This doesn’t exactly have to do with speaking, but character actions go along with what they’re saying. You aren’t going to have a character standing there stiff as a board as they wax poetic to another character. Your characters don’t need to do anything wild, but the right character action will certainly enrich the scene and make the dialogue more impactful. 
For example, if your character is distressed you have two ways you can go about it.
Option A:
“I don’t know what to do!” he said, distressed. 
Option B:
He ran his hand through his hair while he paced the room. When he finally stopped pacing, he looked to her with wide eyes.  “I don’t know what to do!”
Option B actually shows the distress, enriching the scene while Option A simply tells us he’s distressed. Never underestimate the benefit of telling us what a character is doing. 

Join us next week when we talk about the setting. 

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Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Author Interview: Diane Anthony

Diane, thanks for sitting down with us today. Let’s dive right in, shall we? What inspired you to write Supernova?
I was riding in the Jeep with my husband one day and the thought popped in my head, “What if a supernova happened too close to Earth and people got superpowers from the radiation?” 
Up to that point, I never thought about writing. I was an avid reader, but the idea of writing had never even crossed my mind. My husband was the one that was going to write a book. Unfortunately, he hasn’t had the time to write his yet, but it inspired me to take that step. 
The idea of Supernova came from my love of superhero movies, which all started with the first X-Men movie. I loved the variety of superpowers in X-Men and I thought it would be fun to write a book in that type of universe. I liked coming up with some superpowers that were useless or not your typical, run-of-the-mill powers. 
That’s pretty cool. Do you have any themes in your story?  
Definitely superheroes, but I wanted to put a twist on the typical superhero trope and make using superpowers come with a price. 
You don’t really get to see a lot of the downside of superpowers—it’s nice to see that in your book. Who is your favorite character?
My favorite character to write was my main character’s neighbor, Mrs. Donaldson, especially when she starts going crazy. The crazy characters are the most fun!
However, my favorite character has to be Madeline. I put a lot of myself into her because, in a way, it was like I was writing my daughter into existence. I have three wonderful sons, but no daughters. I wanted to use the girl name I had picked out, and what better way to use it, then to immortalize it in a book.  
That’s really sweet, thank you for sharing that. How did you craft your world? 

I wanted to base my story out of somewhere local; to put Amherst, WI on the map, so to speak. Although I fabricated the characters, most of the locations are real places. 
I decided to show what a big cataclysmic event would look like from a small-town point of view, because most apocalyptic type stories take place in major cities, and I wanted to try something different. 
I feel like more stories should be in small towns. Let’s change direction a little: can you tell us about your journey with this book?
The journey with this book has been a rough ride. Writing this book was easy, but it was everything afterward that was hard. I first tried to find an agent and was rejected over seventy times. I decided to work with a co-publisher, which is where you pay a company to make your book and help sell it. They ripped me off; never paying me my royalties. I fought with them, even hired a lawyer. I came to a point where any mention of Supernova would draw a sigh out of me. I was beginning to hate my book because of everything I had gone through and that was devastating. Fortunately, I finally got them to give me my rights back, and I’m happy to say I’m in a much better place now. Supernova is my first book, my baby, and I’m relieved to have it in the hands of A4A!

We’re glad to have it in our hands, too! What can readers expect next from you?
I’m currently writing the last book for my trilogy. The first book of the trilogy, The Rare, is out right now and the second one, The Remnant will be released in October of this year. 
I have another book idea that I’m excited about. I’m going to include my family in the writing process, allowing each of my boys to create a civilization and world that I will put in my book. I think it’s going to be a lot of fun!

That sounds intriguing! Thanks again for talking with us today, Diane, and readers don’t forget to join us for the launch party for Supernova this Saturday, the 7th!

by Diane Anthony

When librarian Madeline Hayes wakes up in the front yard with no memory of why she's there, her simple life in a small town becomes more complicated than she ever imagined. Strange things start happening: her father heals an injury with a touch, her elderly neighbor seems to become younger, and everyone starts getting this strange blue light in their eyes—and in their veins. 

And then people start dying. 

Can Madeline unravel this mystery and stop the strange transformations before it's too late?
Join us next week when we resume our new authors series, this time talking about dialogue.

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Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Misused Writing Advice: Show, Don’t Tell

When You’re Showing Too Much
Rebecca Mikkelson, CBD Authors 4 Authors Publishing
Every piece of advice that we’re going to talk about in this series has good intentions at its origin, but has evolved into something either misused or something inviolable. “Show, don’t tell” is the latter. In itself, “show, don’t tell” is great advice, but it’s morphed into an absolute rule.


Originally, this advice was thought to be attributed to Anton Chekov, but the author we really have to thank for “show, don’t tell,” is Percy Lubbock from his book The Craft of Fiction. There are several other famous authors whom readers and writers would have heard similar adages from, however. One such author is Chuck Palahniuk, author of the novel Fight Club, who recommended a ban on what he called “thought verbs,” which would mean taking out words like “believes,” “knows,” and “thinks.”

When it’s bad

This is a little bit of a mixed bag because what the advice is intended for isn’t bad. A lot of the time this advice is misused in the sense that new writers think that you have to use it for not only emotions but actions and time as well. There is a time and a place for it, to be sure.
Your reader does not need to know every single decision that your character makes of why he turns left or right unless it’s going to affect where the plot is going to go (ie, if the character turns right, he’ll go home, but if the character turns left, he’ll go on an adventure). It’s really not critical information, and neither is the entire journey of the travels. It’s okay to have travel gaps with scene breaks, we promise. This is secondary information in the story (to a point—there are exceptions to this, like writing adventure novels); you’re going to weigh your readers down and fatigue them before the first act of the book is finished if you put every little thing in there. 
There is one last bone I have to pick with overuse of “show, don’t tell,” and that’s when it’s used in the setting. And I feel a little bit like a hypocrite even writing this because I’m regularly guilty of it when I write. Your reader deserves to have an immersive experience in your world, but for the love of God don’t bludgeon them with it. One author in particular I think has a hefty amount to blame on this last bit is the great JRR Tolkien himself. 
Please, put away your pitchforks and let me explain. 
JRRT is an amazing storyteller and an even more amazing linguist. Lord of the Rings is one of my favorite stories out there, but with every fiber of my being do I hate the sheer amount of detail that is crammed into each page. It is wholly unnecessary to devote pages upon pages upon pages to a single field as Tolkien has been known to do.

When it’s good

This one should be pretty obvious. You want your reader to have an immersive experience in your story, and they certainly deserve one, but that doesn’t always mean showing every detail. Sometimes it’s more fun for readers when authors subscribe to the Hemmingway “Iceberg Method,” and the reader can make their own theories about what’s happening. 
When it comes to “show, don’t tell,” this is where Palahniuk’s advice on “thought verbs” (also “telling verbs”) should be heeded. Your reader wants to feel what your character is feeling, not be told what they’re feeling. For example, here is the same idea, one version with telling and one with showing:
He felt awful.

He groaned and let his head fall back into the pillow. His chest rattled with mucus when he breathed and his eyes ached when the light flicked on above him. Why would anyone think it was a good idea to turn on his light when he was in this condition?
In the first example, we know the character feels bad. In the second, we know why he feels bad and sympathize with his plight. 
Your goal as a writer should not only be to tell a good story, but to make your reader forget that they’re reading it and not along for the ride with the characters themselves. 

How to make sure you’re not going overboard with your showing

One of the easiest ways to make sure you’re not going overboard is to identify when it’s better to tell than to show. This is easier said than done, especially when you’re a new writer. These have been briefly touched on already, but here are just a few places where it’s more beneficial to tell and not show:
  • Going from Point A to Point B when it doesn’t have an effect on plot or character development.
  • Passage of time.
  • Telling some of the simpler backstory for characters. (We don’t need to see Character A actually tilling the fields to learn he’s worked on a farm in the past when he comes across a new farmer doing something he wouldn’t have done. All we need is a brief, “He wouldn’t have done it that way when he was working the land.”)
Another way to make sure that you don’t get too lost in the details is to have critique partners and readers and ask them to keep in mind the details—are there enough, or are there far too many? For me, my husband alpha reads my work when he has the time, and he’s been given explicit instructions to comment “Tolkien Field” in the sections that I go overboard in.

Next Time
Have you ever heard writing advice that seemed odd? Let us know on Twitter or Facebook! Keep an eye out for next month’s Misused Writing Advice: Limit Your POV.

And join us next week for an interview with author Diane Anthony for the relaunch of her SciFi novel Supernova.

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