Show/Don’t Tell & Body Language Lists

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One of the things you will hear a great deal as a writer is to “show don’t tell.” Part of this alludes to passive voice, but eliminating passive voice isn’t enough. As a writer, your narration has to lead the reader to the conclusion you want them to arrive at without telling them outright. This is one of the more difficult aspects of writing for most people (and if you’ve picked up many books—even traditional press, high-quality ones—you will see that this isn’t always a well-followed rule).

Here is an example of what I mean.
Jack was sad because of the bad news. (Passive)
The bad news made Jack sad. (Better… not passive, but it still “tells.”)
Jack heard the news and his shoulders slumped with a sigh. (This version leads us to conclude what kind of news it was and his reaction to it based on his body language.)

Granted, we can’t do the above with every sentence. Sometimes we must set absolutes and dictate what has happened so that there is no confusion for the reader, but we should make an attempt to make our characters act out their feelings as often as possible. I find this is especially true in my own writing during dialogue.

While using different text analysis apps I’ve learned a lot about my writing and my style. I am amazing at killing voice in my sentences, according to the Hemingway app; I don’t even come close to the recommended limit it gives based on length and that makes my stories feel like white-knuckle page-turners… but adverbs. I tend to run over in that department, and chiefly because of dialogue. I’ve found that my characters often say things sadly or reply tensely. They should instead say things with a sigh or reply as they bristle visibly. To help improve my own writing I often consult collections of phrases that show specific body language (lest I fall into using the same few descriptive postures over and over.)

Here are a few graphics on the topic taken from Amanda Patterson’s blog. She cautions not to overuse these which can bog down the story. I can concur; authors need to keep storytelling as number one and remember that a story is not a collection of good descriptions and well-spoken details.

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There are few other sites I’d recommend with additional lists:
Word Dreams
Writers in the Storm
Bryn Donovan’s Gesture List
Bryn Donovan’s Facial Expression List
TheOtakuNerd on Wattpad
Perhaps my new favorite is DescriptiveWords.org which links to a bunch of smaller lists based on adjectives (like a thesaurus, but collected differently.)

Do you know of body-language lists like these? Let me know in the comments!

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Review: Sherlock Holmes and the Cult of Cthulhu

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James Boswell’s Sherlock Holmes and the Cult of Cthulhu is an intriguing book. The time periods, and in many respects, the writing styles, of Doyle and Lovecraft seem an obvious intersection for a writer seeking to dovetail them together.

Fair warning, I haven’t read any of Doyle’s Holmes titles in almost two decades. Perhaps it was the theme, but I read the story with an inner monologue in a British accent, kind of like how memes with a photo of Morgan Freeman make you read the text in his voice. Continue reading Review: Sherlock Holmes and the Cult of Cthulhu

State of Writing

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Yikes. My day got away from me before I could vomit a few words onto my keyboard.
Big week for me… in addition to being crazy productive for my dayjob. I took my daughter to the #MNWW Minnesota writers workshop; she just recently finished her first novel. Not only did she get to see some of the underbelly stuff from the publishing world and get to hear from some industry professionals, but we took an editing track that I think she will find immensely useful in making revisions. (She took like 6 pages worth of notes). My big highlights this year were all professional achievements. I connected with the owner of Subtext books who sponsored the event and have her sold on hosting a book signing for Wolf of the Tesseract. I also book a future author interview for this blog from David Oppegaard, and pitched books to 3 agents (with 4 requests for pages and an agent I pitched last year but did not query this year invited me to requery her at her new agency). Hopefully the other shoe doesn’t drop any time soon.
Scheduled a few more book signings in addition to everything else I did. I also finished my outlines for all 5 installments of The Hidden Rings of Myrrdin the Cambion, my YA genre mash-up series which will begin writing soon. I did get worried when I realized I lost an entire book (including the outline) that I had detailed notes for while updating my scrivener software a few months back now that I wanted to plot them with notecards in the software. It took me a few hours’ worth of searching through old TEMP files, but I eventually found them. Good thing, too, because it was pretty good stuff and I outlined all 5 books over a period of about 10 days so that all the story lines had a cohesive continuity.
…Now to get the final drafts of TKR3 and WotT2 completed so I can begin in clear conscience.

Answering Reader Questions #1 Passive Voice (and other ramblings)

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I’m quite serious when I tell people I’m willing to give some feedback, answer questions, or offer writing advice. (I always extend this offer to folks on my mailing list–I love to connect and see what friends are doing.) A friend recently asked for some advice about passive voice and I thought I’d copy and paste the exchange here in the event that it might help some fellow writers.

You said something before about passive voice and active voice. Could you explain that again? for example, I could write (her voice is kind but there is no expression on her face) but I could write (her voice was kind but there was no expression on her face). is present or past tense better? in addition, the first chapter starts the stories but then the rest of the opening chapters go back in time to see what lead up to the first. Is present tense still the best?

in addition, the first chapter starts the stories but then the rest of the opening chapters go back in time to see what lead up to the first. Is present tense still the best?

Passive voice and the tenses of verbs aren’t the same thing (just in case there’s confusion. When I first started kicking over rocks to figure out how to improve my writing I discovered there existed a whole set of terms I knew nothing about—and I’m still learning new ones all the time).

Anyway, here’s passive voice in a nutshell: when something just “is” …passive voice is when your verb is a state of being. The most common abuse is when people use the word was. Here’s an example: Continue reading Answering Reader Questions #1 Passive Voice (and other ramblings)

Review: Cursed–the Hunter Inside

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Cursed: the Hunter Inside (Part 1), is the next book that you’ve got to get! As the father of teenage author I took special interest when sixteen year old Casey Millette queried my blog for a review. I thought I might have to reach in order to find nice things to say, but dang, this girl can write.

It opens with a phenomenal hook and the action keeps driving forward from there. In checking out her publisher, I also see that Parliament House  (an IBPA member) is no slouch, either. They demand top- notch stories, and this is one of them. Millette writes with a tightness and descriptive ability typically only found in writers with several books under their belt; she does a great job of resisting waxing passive and falling into “tell” vs “show.” This is a story you won’t regret picking up and from a voice that is guaranteed to be a fresh one in the industry. Continue reading Review: Cursed–the Hunter Inside

State of Writing

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Last week I edited a revised draft of my new crime-comedy/awkward romance, 50 Shades of Worf… note the title change. I also watched most of Alan Tudyk’s ConMan (which is hilarious) … they are very similar. Once I do another future edit, and after I have completed through season two, I may be reminded of some other tropes and can insert a few other throw away jokes. I really am heavy on the humor side.

Aside from the #amediting I did a little promo for my 2 books in the Indie Contest (please vote) and set some calendar items (I am confirmed at the MCBA comiccon in May,) and got a few things ready for the MN Writers Workshop I’m attending on Saturday.

My 14 year old daughter is coming with me as a paid and registered conference member. She just finished her novel over the weekend, so I’m excited for her to see some of the other real world aspects of the publishing world and get her acquainted early.

Within the next couple of weeks I hope to begin the Hidden Rings Cycle. I have begun migrating my rough outlines into a more Scrivener friendly format so that it’s ready to begin writing and then keep writing. I should have that done this week. My outlook is very positive–50 Shades of Worf was written in just over 30 days and its slightly longer/about the same as what I have planned for each of these 5 stories… the goal is to complete writing on them in a maximum of 12 months. I proved to myself that I am capable of that… new achievement reached! New goal unlocked: write 6 novels in one year. 1 down, 5 to go 🙂

Also! If you have a beta copy of The Kakos Realm: Death Upon the Fields of Splendor, please get me your notes, revisions, chicken scratches, and doodles asap… I’d like to complete my last 2 rounds of revisions before I begin writing the Hidden Rings stories (one I start, I only want to pause to do the same for Wolves of the Tesseract #2).

What do you want to know? Taking Your Requests…

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I want to hear from you! I often answer questions from people as they ask them in person, at panels, and online. #writingadvice #writerscommunity  #amwriting

What are your biggest questions about publishing, writing, etc? I’ll do my best to ferret out the answers for you! Maybe I’ve already blogged about it and this will give me a chance to revisit an older topics again.

I do have blog posts written and scheduled up until the end of March already, but I’d love to write some new articles on top of those I’ve already got and see what issues other Indies are dealing with.

Leave your comments in the blog responses (this will be pushed to social media as well, but those responses are harder to track, so reply to this post over at https://authorchristopherdschmitz.wordpress.com so I can find them more easily!)

I’m here to help! Let me help you navigate the Indie world! Leave those comments below and Follow me for more!

#indiethursday #amediting #indieauthor  #indiepub #selfpub #selfpublishing

Review: Neogenesis

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I got an ARC of Neogenesis from a contact over at Baen Books who was looking for reviews. It is written by the husband and wife duo Sharon Lee and Steve Miller.

The book falls somewhere on the Space Opera spectrum with some leanings into hard SF. I enjoyed the book, although it took me a little bit to get into it. Partly that is because the SF universe that they write in is so expansive that some of what they were writing about may have taken me a little extra time to wade in and understand. The first moment that I really connected was late in the first chapter when Ren Zel resisted the temptations of the addiction he knew he’d eventually succumb to—and that’s what space opera is all about: internal character struggle.

The universe is big (even if this particular book deals mostly with the backwater planet of Surebleak. Of course, planets like Tatooine are the perfect sorts of places to do acts and take refuge away from prying eyes. Continue reading Review: Neogenesis

State of Writing

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Thanks to everyone who voted over the weekend for my books that were award nominations. you can check out friday’s post for info about that if you would like to help with a vote.

I did successfully complete the rough draft of my offbeat, comic mystery 50 Shades of Star Trek TNG. I can start a new draft soon before I let it sit and percolate before some more earnest rewriting. It took me a little over 30 days to write so I basically did a nanowrimo over January as a personal challenge (I’d never done it before since my novembers are usually busy.)

More coming up soon, but now I’ve got to catch up on some book reviews since I let most of them go on hold while under such an intense writing schedule. Next up for me is to finish revisions for Wolf of the Tesseract 2 and The Kakos Realm 3 and then I’ll begin the final prewriting phases for the Hidden Rings of Myriddin the Cambion series (plus I’m still scheduling author events through 2018… I have some neat irons in the fire I’ll mention as soon as they are written in ink. Until then, come hang out at the MN Writing Workshop. You can still register for the event which is Feb 17.)