Make Your Setting Sexy

In my work as a writing coach and an editor, I read a lot of stories that don’t feel real. That might be because there are no senses involved. But the other big culprit is setting.

Every story takes place somewhere.

That’s right. Let me say it again.

Every story takes place somewhere.

And our job as a writer is to show the specific details of that setting, to give setting a presence in the story just as much as we give the plot and characters a presence in the story.

I’ve written before:

Setting has lovers and haters. It can be quite the polarizing part of the writer world.

The haters think of setting and the thing of description. Or they think of massive amounts of description that continues on forever and ever. The think setting equals boring.

The setting lovers think setting is the best thing in the whole universe. Their stories start with paragraph after paragraph after paragraph of mood and setting.

But no matter what camp you’re in, setting isn’t something that should be tacked onto a story. Setting is more than describing the living room. It creates the feeling of a story and its time, where it happens, its bit of the world. Poets and novelists of the past often make the landscape a character in their poem or their narrative. The claustrophobia of a small town like in Peyton Place or even Twilight’s moody darkness is part of the story and is an important aspect to the main characters’ moods and choices.

Writers who can visualize the setting and put that on the page are writers who transport their readers.

How do you make your settings amazing and sexy?

Make it surprising. Make how your characters interact with it matter.

We all expect someone to be moved at a sunrise or sunset’s beauty. What if your character is afraid of it?

Let your readers know what’s going on.

Keep them oriented in the scene. Don’t have the characters just floating out there in talking heads dialogue with no details or just all internal dialogue. Characters need to interact with the space.

Make your character interact with the setting on a big and small level.

Has your character been in their town their whole life and feels like it’s crushing her soul? Show that. That’s big-picture-interaction.

Does your character keep trying to scrub the dog drool off her wood floor? Show that. That’s small-picture-interaction.

Use All the Senses

I wrote about this earlier. It’s easy. Humans smell, feel, see, touch, hear and taste. Your characters should too. What they smell, feel, see, touch, hear and taste? That’s part of the setting.

Make it interesting

Every place is unique. Every setting has an aspect of difference. Bring those unique details out and have them matter to the story.

What Are The Three Types of Setting?

Wait what? Yep. You read that correctly. There are three types of setting.

Temporal – the era that the story is happening in.

Environmental – The geographical area

Individual – specific place in that area

LET’S HANG OUT!

HEY! DO YOU WANT TO SPEND MORE TIME TOGETHER?

MAYBE TAKE A COURSE, CHILL ON SOCIAL MEDIA, BUY ART OR A BOOK, OR LISTEN TO OUR PODCAST?

JUST CLICK ON THIS LINK AND FIND OUT HOW WE CAN INTERACT MORE.

HELP US AND DO AN AWESOME GOOD DEED

https://carriejonesbooks.blog/dogs-are-smarter-than-people-the-podcast/Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness on the DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE podcast and our new LOVING THE STRANGE podcast.

We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of. 


Please share it and subscribe if you can. Please rate and like us if you are feeling kind, because it matters somehow. There’s a new episode every Tuesday!

Thanks so much for being one of the 259,000 downloads if you’ve given us a listen!

One newest LOVING THE STRANGE podcast is about urban legends. And our newest DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE episode is about the B Story and goat voyeurs.

The Five Senses of Farts, Dangerous Croissant Animals, and Random Writing Tips About Settings

Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
The Five Senses of Farts, Dangerous Croissant Animals, and Random Writing Tips About Settings
/

The smell of a really bad fart at a sleepover. The sound of giggles after someone has been dutch ovened at that same sleepover. The touch of a Dorito on your tongue. The sight of Godzilla’s leg outside your window.

The five senses are so important in your story. Those details yank readers into the narrative. They associate it with their own really bad farts, giggles, processed cheese tastes and um–Godzilla moments–and have an emotional reaction and recognition.

That’s what you, the writer, want. You want your story to feel real. Incorporating the senses lets you do that.

Spoiler alert: A story doesn’t feel real if it isn’t fleshed out with sensory details.

Here are the five senses in case you forgot:

  1. Sight (eyes)
  2. Nose (smell)
  3. Taste (tongue)
  4. Touch (skin, hair)
  5. Hearing (ears)

Here are examples of sensory language:

  • His fart brought tears to her eyes. “Refried beans again, really?” (sense of smell)
  • He stuck the entire lemon half into his mouth, puckered and sucked. “This helps with the smell,” he said. (sense of taste)
  • His fart boomed beneath the covers and ended in a slow hiss. (sense of sound)
  • The silk of the sheets against her nose was not enough to keep the smell at bay. Damn it. (sense of touch)
  • The scaly leg took up the entire window. All she could see where reptilian scales, half oval, greenish, like big pieces of armor. (sense of sight)

Writing Tip of The Pod

A story without the senses is a story that’s dull, not real, and all in your head. You want to make it sexy. Sexy is the senses.

Dog Tip for Life

Live with all your senses. Explore the world through them. It’s all good. Smell the smells. Taste the smells. See the smells. Feel the smells. Hear the smells.

SHOUT OUT!

The music we’ve clipped and shortened in this podcast is awesome and is made available through the Creative Commons License. 

Here’s a link to that and the artist’s website. Who is this artist and what is this song?  It’s “Summer Spliff” by Broke For Free.

And we have a new podcast, LOVING THE STRANGE, which we stream live on Carrie’s Facebook and Twitter and LinkedIn on Fridays. Her Facebook and Twitter handles are all carriejonesbooks or carriejonesbook.

Here’s the link. This week’s podcast is all about strange habits.

Random Thoughts

This week we talked about women’s rights, COVID vaccines and also weird news. The link to the news is here. And the story about the deadly croissant animal is here. Stay weird everyone!

LET’S HANG OUT!

HEY! DO YOU WANT TO SPEND MORE TIME TOGETHER?

MAYBE TAKE A COURSE, CHILL ON SOCIAL MEDIA, BUY ART OR A BOOK, OR LISTEN TO OUR PODCAST?

JUST CLICK ON THIS LINK AND FIND OUT HOW WE CAN INTERACT MORE.

HELP US AND DO AN AWESOME GOOD DEED

https://carriejonesbooks.blog/dogs-are-smarter-than-people-the-podcast/Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness on the DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE podcast and our new LOVING THE STRANGE podcast.

We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of. 


Please share it and subscribe if you can. Please rate and like us if you are feeling kind, because it matters somehow. There’s a new episode every Tuesday!

Thanks so much for being one of the 259,000 downloads if you’ve given us a listen!

One newest LOVING THE STRANGE podcast is about urban legends. And our newest DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE episode is about the B Story and goat voyeurs.

Goat Voyeurs UFOs are Everywhere and Why You Should Write B Stories

Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Goat Voyeurs UFOs are Everywhere and Why You Should Write B Stories
/

Screenwriter Blake Snyder and his Save the Cat method really made the term/lingo “B” story and “A” story super popular. And I think sometimes that damn “B” story gets us all confused a bit, right?

So, basically let’s just go over the terms first.

What the heck is an A story and a B story?

The A story is the book or movie’s big essence. People call it the “dramatic” core. It is the big plotline that the hero of the story follows on her journey.

The B story is the subplot basically. It supports the “A” story. It sometimes feels absolutely unrelated.

The FlyingWrestler blog defines it.

“It’s a secondary story that has its own beginning, middle and end, and is focused on its own problem, separate from but intertwined with the A Story.”

The scriptmag writes ,

“The B Story is your character’s secondary motivation or mission – the OTHER thing they have to accomplish. Your B Story may be a second problem or issue that your main character has to fix. And while your A-Story presents itself at the inciting incident and is solidified at the end of the first act with the acceptance of the adventure, your B-Story often can’t be identified UNTIL the second act begins, because it’s what is illuminated by the adventure beginning.

The FlyingWrestler blog again says,

“Just like the main A Story, the B Story’s main character should have a problem involving something external, which has its own significant life stakes. That means the problem isn’t only an internal issue, involving their need to grow and change in some way.”

So, the question becomes: Does my story have a B story? Or is it all A?

You don’t have to have a B story, but it can be helpful.

“The classic use of B Story in a movie is a romantic relationship that is secondary to a non-romantic A Story. The potential romantic partner often pressures the main character, intentionally or not, to deal with their “stuff,” and consider changing. But as with most such internal growth, the character doesn’t engage in it willingly, with “growth” as the goal. No, characters (like real people) tend to avoid change, until really significant external problems force them into it. Typically the pressures of both the A and B Story problems combine to do that. But even then, the hero usually doesn’t really change until some key moment in the final act where they (usually) snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

“But first, both A and B Story usually reach a rock bottom “All is Lost” moment. So if the B Story is about a relationship, it’s usually broken and over at that point, as are the main character’s hopes for their A Story goal. They will have one last chance to try to solve both in the final act.

Flying Wrestler

If the B Story is a romantic relationship, something has to be in the way of it. It has to be focused on a conflict, and not going well. If two people fall for each other and get together and have a lot of sex, etc., without some looming threat to the relationship, that’s not a story. That’s a positive development for the main character. And we audiences get bored by positive developments. We thrive on problems and conflicts.

Scriptmag gives a great example:

The Wizard of Oz – Dorothy’s A-Story is to find the Wizard and get home, but the B-Story becomes helping Oz and her new friends. She had no idea she was going to have to do that until the adventure began.

Usually when a crisis happens the B story acts like John Wayne in a movie and comes in and saves the A story. They merge and the reader goes, “Ah! They were connected the whole damn time. Doh!”

This is true about life, too, right? We all want to become writers, but then we have this B story of another career or self-sabotage and we might resist it, and then it’s like? Will our B story come save our A story?

But that’s about us as writers, not our actual books. So let’s get back to that.

The B story or subplot changes how your reader sees the main plot, right?

What does the B story actually do for you? Because it’s all about you, right? Of course it is!

It allows you to bulk out your story, but it can sometimes add too much bulk to your story.

It can help with pacing and structure. It’s especially helpful if you make things really dangerous for those minor characters early on while things are kind of still in the set-up for the main characters. This is a bit of a variant from Snyder’s plot form, which tends to insert that B Story at the end of act one.

It allows you to skip boring scenes in the A story sometimes. How does it do that? By creating a jump to another character or another moment/interest.

If you do use other characters to carry that B story, then you have to make sure the reader is interested enough in those other characters. Like in Lord of the Rings. Tolkein puts everyone into smaller units. They each get their own goals. Each group gets their own plotlines. And in the finale every one of those groups matter.

WRITING TIP OF THE POD

Don’t be afraid to be complicated. A good novel isn’t a picture book and you want there to be a subplot.


DOG TIP FOR LIFE

Don’t be a one-trick wonder. Have multiple goals and live life to the fullest. Don’t just be an A story.

THINGS WE TALKED ABOUT IN RANDOM THOUGHTS

For more about Lego theft, check out here on NPR.

More about UFOs? Check out this NYT article.

RESOURCES

Script.mag has a great article here.

Here’s the Flying Wrestler’s take that we’ve quoted.

And the peeping-tom goat is all here.

SHOUT OUT!

The music we’ve clipped and shortened in this podcast is awesome and is made available through the Creative Commons License. 

Here’s a link to that and the artist’s website. Who is this artist and what is this song?  It’s “Summer Spliff” by Broke For Free.

And we have a new podcast, LOVING THE STRANGE, which we stream live on Carrie’s Facebook and Twitter and LinkedIn on Fridays. Her Facebook and Twitter handles are all carriejonesbooks or carriejonesbook.

Here’s the link. This week’s podcast is all about strange habits.

Florida river monsters and it’s not writer’s block. It’s writer’s burnout.

So how do you take care of yourself without burning out on taking care of yourself?

Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Florida river monsters and it's not writer's block. It's writer's burnout.
/

It’s 2021 and people are burnt out. There’s COVID-19. There’s political strife. Systemic bigotries and biases. There’s meanies at the grocery store and there’s that never-ending effort for some of us to pay for food, shelter, and health care, right?

On Carrie’s blog, http://www.carriejonesbooks.blog, she talked about how you can burnout on self care even, but also how writers seem super susceptible to burnout and why she was a bit burnt out for awhile.

First, let’s put some definitions out there.

Writer’s block is when you can’t figure out what to write.

Writer’s burnout is when you are super stressed and completely mentally and physically exhausted. You have zero motivation.

And surprise surprise this pandemic has burnt out a lot of people–not just writers.

What else causes burnout?

  • That damn stress
  • Nobody supporting you
  • Not being valued
  • Working too hard
  • Multitasking like a wild one
  • Chaos


What are the symptoms?

Back in 2016, the Harvard Business Review had an article by Monique Valcour about beating burnout.

Her main three symptoms are

  • Exhaustion
  • Cynicism
  • Inefficacy

Add to that:

  • Zero motivation
  • Not being interested in things
  • Feeling like a big fail
  • Not feeling attached to anything, especially your work

In Valcour’s article, she pulls out four things you can do to combat burnout.

Prioritize self-care.

Shift your perspective.

Reduce exposure to job stressors.

Seek out connections.

Valcour

Easier said than done, right?

Over on the blog, TOO MUCH ON HER PLATE, Dr. Melissa writes

Taking care of YOU is not a luxury.

Which makes sense because if you don’t take care of yourself and your basic needs, you die.

But I think she’s talking a bit beyond those basic needs and writes what happens when you don’t take care of yourself! Yes, we’re talking to you!

You have less energy and motivation to follow through on your goals

You are more easily distracted and less focused

Many people tend to turn to “vices” to fill in the gaps that aren’t being filled with in quality ways. Stress eating and other kinds of emotional eating, smoking, drinking too much, wasting time surfing the internet—these are a few things that tend to show up, waste more of your time and energy, distract you, and contribute to a vicious cycle of decreased happiness and less effectiveness.

Stress levels are higher

Sleep is often impaired (or sacrificed)

It’s common to feel deprived, irritable, more easily frustrated, or impatient

Creativity suffers and life usually includes less play and fun

Health is negatively affected

Dr. Melissa

So how do you take care of yourself without burning out on taking care of yourself?

Spoiler: Carrie is burnt out on daily five-minute arm exercise videos.

Spoiler: Shaun is burnt out listening to Carrie do those five-minute arm exercise videos.

Anyway, how do you take care of you? Again, Dr. Melissa has some lovely advice:

Start claiming 10-15 minutes a day for yourself. Use this time to connect with yourself and to pay attention to how you feel and what you need. Journal, walk, meditate, soak in the tub. Try not to save this for the end of the day when you are too tired to move and your brain has stopped working. Pay yourself first or, if necessary, take a break during your day.

Adopt the following mantras: “I’m doing my best,” and “I can’t do it all.” They are true. Put them where you can see them and remind yourself of them frequently.

Create effectiveness in do-able steps. Each evening, identify your top three personal action items for the next day and decide when you will accomplish them. Think do-able. If these daily goals seem overwhelming, make them smaller. A fifteen minute walk that you take is better than the 45 minute one you couldn’t fit in. If possible, knock out your personal priorities early in the day.

Plan for food that fuels you—especially when time is tight. Don’t skip breakfast, have a plan for lunch, and don’t starve yourself before dinner. Make sure you have the groceries that you need. Choose foods that are appealing. No starvation diets.

Cut the multitasking. It stresses us out and makes us less effective. Practice focusing on doing one thing at a time. You won’t get it perfect, but that’s okay, remember step number two.

Take emotional eating seriously. It’s often a signal that life is out of balance and your personal priorities need more attention. Emotional eating happens when our spirit or our life isn’t getting fed the non-food things we need or crave. If you wonder about how to stop emotional eating, it starts with paying attention and developing ways of caring for ourselves instead of turning to food.

Dr. Melissa

All pretty cool stuff, right?

A few years ago, Kellie McGann on The Write Practice blog talked about how to overcome writing burnout specifically. She said she had writer’s burnout because “I started thinking that my words didn’t matter and no one needed to hear what I had to say.”

That feeling is so common especially for pre-published writers or writers who are from oppressed groups and identities.

So how do you deal with it?

How to deal with Writing Burnout according to McGann

Recognize the Problem

Don’t Stop Writing

Find Yourself (again)

Don’t Try to Explain Yourself

Write Consistently

McGann

What does that mean?

It means that you have to keep being persistent and putting words down even when you never want to write again if it’s your job and your dream to be a writer/author/novelist.

It means you’re allowed to be open about being burnt out, but you don’t owe other people explanations about the why of your burnout. But you don’t have to tell anyone why you aren’t putting your words out there. You get to do you.

It means you have to take the time to remember or re-remember, why you’re a writer, who you are, what your message is, what you want to say. You get to go back to the core of who you are, the real you, and your message to the world.

And it does matter. You matter. Your words matter. We need them out there.

WRITING TIP OF THE POD

Burnout is real. Take care of yourself.

DOG TIP FOR LIFE

Make your own mantra. Find your joy, don’t worry about that outside validation. Know your purpose and go after it. Sparty’s purpose is food. He goes after it. Even if it’s a bacon crumb under a coffee table, that dog is all in.

You’ve got this. Be like Sparty. Find people that support you and your voice.

Articles we mention in our random thoughts are

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/florida-arapaima-new-invasive-species/

https://shepherdexpress.com/puzzles/news-of-the-weird/news-of-the-weird-april-16-2020/

The Places We Hide by Carrie Jones
The Places We Hide by Carrie Jones

SHOUT OUT!

The music we’ve clipped and shortened in this podcast is awesome and is made available through the Creative Commons License. 

Here’s a link to that and the artist’s website. Who is this artist and what is this song?  It’s “Summer Spliff” by Broke For Free.

And we have a new podcast, LOVING THE STRANGE, which we stream live on Carrie’s Facebook and Twitter and LinkedIn on Fridays. Her Facebook and Twitter handles are all carriejonesbooks or carriejonesbook.

Here’s the link. This week’s podcast is all about strange habits.

Are You Burning Out?

For writers, that feeling of lack of achievement and incompetence is pretty easy to get. It’s a subjective business and other writers’ successes are often right in your face, right?

Ah. Burnout.

As a traditionally published novelist, I have always had a weird instability in my income and that got only worse during the COVID-19 pandemic when a bunch of factors happened:

  1. I didn’t have any traditionally published books coming out that year.
  2. Our main outside source of income (renting our houses) couldn’t happen because COVID.
  3. We became the only and primary residence of a super cool eleven-year-old with some deep anxiety, oppositional defiance disorder, and autism. And because of risk factors she was being remotely schooled for the pandemic and still is.

This meant I had to pivot and pivot hard. Suddenly, I was really the major and only wage owner. I created a couple of classes (You can check them out) on Patreon, self-published a book and a novella of my heart. And began editing and writing coaching a lot.

And when I say ‘a lot,’ I mean I work from 6 or 7 a.m. until 5 or 7 p.m. on other people’s amazing and beautiful and fun stories.

I love it.

But by dinner, I’m tired of being in front of my computer and I long to be outside. I’m an outside person.

And the schedule hasn’t given me as much time as I’m used to writing my own stories.

And I’m super lucky and I know myself pretty well and there’s a few things I have to do in order to not feel burnt out and those things are:

  1. Be outside and exercise.
  2. Write my own stories or paint something.
  3. Sing loudly.
  4. Dance around the kitchen like a total goofball.
  5. Help other people.
  6. Hug on dogs and cats and dream about manatees. I have a thing for manatees.

A long time ago, in the cold hills of Vermont, amazing author and human Rita Williams Garcia warned me about burnout. “It’s going to happen to you,” she said. “It happens to all of us.”

I gasped, horrified. “Not me!”

“Even you.” She smiled.

Back in 2016, the Harvard Business Review had an article by Monique Valcour about beating burnout.

In the summary of her article, she wrote:

Three symptoms characterize burnout: exhaustion; cynicism, or distancing oneself from work; and inefficacy, or feelings of incompetence and lack of achievement. Research has linked burnout to many health problems, including hypertension, sleep disturbances, depression, and substance abuse. Moreover, it can ruin relationships and jeopardize career prospects.

For writers, that feeling of lack of achievement and incompetence is pretty easy to get. It’s a subjective business and other writers’ successes are often right in your face, right? There’s a whole thing called Imposter Syndrome that even super famous and accomplished authors get.

She also writes:

… you can also take steps toward recovery and prevention on your own: Prioritize your health, shift your perspective to determine which aspects of your situation are fixed and which can be changed, reduce exposure to the most stressful activities and relationships, and seek out helpful interpersonal connections.

Bethany Hegedus, my friend and writer and founder of the Writing Barn sent out a newsletter this week where she bravely talked about how she felt burnt out with her self-care, creating checklists almost (or maybe really) of how to take care of herself. Did she exercise? Did she meditate? Did she hydrate?

The self-care list can go on and on, can’t it? It sure can for those of us who are lucky enough to have the time, financial stability and privilege to even have those moments.

Basically, you can burn out trying not to burn out. I know! Totally unfair, right?

Bethany turns to tiny moments of deep rest where she’s hanging out with her husband, resting in his arms, or when she’s reading (sometimes).

In Valcour’s article, she pulls out four things you can do to combat burnout.

  • Prioritize self-care.
  • Shift your perspective.
  • Reduce exposure to job stressors.
  • Seek out connections

Easier said than done, right? Tomorrow on the podcast, we’re going to talk about those three things

LET’S HANG OUT!

HEY! DO YOU WANT TO SPEND MORE TIME TOGETHER?

MAYBE TAKE A COURSE, CHILL ON SOCIAL MEDIA, BUY ART OR A BOOK, OR LISTEN TO OUR PODCAST?

JUST CLICK ON THIS LINK AND FIND OUT HOW WE CAN INTERACT MORE.

HELP US AND DO AN AWESOME GOOD DEED

https://carriejonesbooks.blog/dogs-are-smarter-than-people-the-podcast/Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness on the DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE podcast and our new LOVING THE STRANGE podcast.

We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of. 


Please share it and subscribe if you can. Please rate and like us if you are feeling kind, because it matters somehow. There’s a new episode every Tuesday!

Thanks so much for being one of the 259,000 downloads if you’ve given us a listen!

One newest LOVING THE STRANGE podcast is about urban legends. And our newest DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE episode is about the B Story and goat voyeurs.

If you like what you read, please heart it below or share it, it means the world to this writer. x0- Carrie

Three Quick Tips to Try to Show Instead of Tell

So all this week, I’ve been talking about how to show and not tell in your writing.

You can find those past post, by clicking on SHOW DON’T TELL in the tags.

We defined it.

Showing is what it sounds like. You are showing what’s happening in the scene or with the character.


Telling is also what it sounds like. You are blunt and direct and are just stating things. Sometimes you’re stating and summarizing.

WE GAVE A QUICK EXAMPLE:

Telling:

Shaun was cranky.

Showing:

Gabby the dog barked for hours at the dogs trotting by the house that morning and after a quick pause for a drink from her red water bowl in the kitchen, she’d pranced back to the living room sliding glass door and started again.

Shaun tensed. He slammed his fist against his desk and roared, “Will you just shut up already?”

And Now I’m Going To Give Three Quicks on How to Show Not Tell

  1. Use dialogue.

We learn a lot about people by how they talk to other people. Do they use big words? Little words? Dramatic words? Do they just grunt?

“I am terribly disappointed in your behavior.”

“You suck. I can’t believe you freaking did that.”

“Wow. Buttface.”

Those are all about the same thing, but three very different responses, right? Those responses tell us about the characters.

  • Describe the action rather than state the action.

Telling:

She loved Spring. It gave her joy.

Showing:

She spiraled around, arms out in the air as she waited for the light to change. The moment it did, she started across.

“You’re skipping,” the lady next to her said.

She smiled back at her, weaving around the school children crossing against them. A dog wagged his tail, sniffing some daffodils in the medium. “It’s Spring. Spring is the best.”

  • Use the setting and make your character actually interact with the setting.

Telling:

I stepped on the porch. It was hot.

Showing:

The rotting wooden boards of the porch popped under my weight as I sniffed my pits. Before I knocked on the red door with its peeling paint and bright orange STAY OUT sign, I pulled at my t-shirt fabric. The humidity made it cling.

HERE IS THE THING: SOMETIMES YOU CAN TELL.

You just want to not always tell. You can tell a little bit as a story begins. You just don’t want to only tell.

HOW DO YOU KNOW WHEN YOU ARE TELLING TOO MUCH?

You’re using a lot of distancing words like “knew, look, saw, heard, supposed, watched, stared, told.”

      Shaun heard the bathroom door unlock and knew that someone was going to be entering the room.

You are using the word obviously, of course, clearly a lot.

      Shaun heard the bathroom door unlock, obviously someone had unlocked it and would be entering the room. Would they die from the smell, clearly it was horrifyingly bad, of course it was. It was the bathroom.

You are making a lot of fluffy language and filler language.

      A flurry of worry flooded his brain as Shaun heard the bathroom door unlock.

And there you go! I hope it helps! Have fun writing!

LET’S HANG OUT!

HEY! DO YOU WANT TO SPEND MORE TIME TOGETHER?

MAYBE TAKE A COURSE, CHILL ON SOCIAL MEDIA, BUY ART OR A BOOK, OR LISTEN TO OUR PODCAST?

JUST CLICK ON THIS LINK AND FIND OUT HOW WE CAN INTERACT MORE.

HELP US AND DO AN AWESOME GOOD DEED

https://carriejonesbooks.blog/dogs-are-smarter-than-people-the-podcast/Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness on the DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE podcast and our new LOVING THE STRANGE podcast.

We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of. 


Please share it and subscribe if you can. Please rate and like us if you are feeling kind, because it matters somehow. There’s a new episode every Tuesday!

Thanks so much for being one of the 259,000 downloads if you’ve given us a listen!

One newest LOVING THE STRANGE podcast is about urban legends. And our newest DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE episode is about the B Story and goat voyeurs.

Naked Lady in the Drain and Why Authors Should Show and Not Tell

When you tell, you are blunt. When you show? You are laying out little truths that compel the reader to turn the page and read on.

Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Naked Lady in the Drain and Why Authors Should Show and Not Tell
/

So a lot of writers get rejections that say, “Show, don’t tell.”

And then they are left wondering, what does that even mean?

And then everyone uses the Chekov quote, “Don’t tell me the moon is shining. Show me the glint of light on broken glass.”

That’s because writers and editors like to quote other writers and editors because it makes us sound:

  1. Pretentious. Cough. I mean intelligent!
  2. Like we know what we’re doing.

Definitions Time

Showing is what it sounds like. You are showing what’s happening in the scene or with the character.


Telling is also what it sounds like. You are blunt and direct and are just stating things. Sometimes you’re stating and summarizing.

Here is a quick example:

Telling:

Shaun was cranky.

Showing:

Gabby the dog barked for hours at the dogs trotting by the house that morning and after a quick pause for a drink from her red water bowl in the kitchen, she’d pranced back to the living room sliding glass door and started again.

Shaun tensed. He slammed his fist against his desk and roared, “Will you just shut up already?”

So why do you want to show more and tell less?

It’s more community oriented.

It gives the reader the truth about the character by illustrating it on the page rather than laying it down like an edict.

If I tell you, Carrie is a timid person, then you’re like okay. Whatever.

But if I show you a scene where Carrie steps outside and starts crying because the grass is long and things could be hiding in it and she starts sweating and shaking because she’s so afraid of the grass? You’re going to probably have a better understanding of how timid a person Carrie actually is.

Yeah, showing takes more words, but writers are word magistrates. We are dealers in the sentence and the language. Words are our friends.

The other reason is that telling makes things dull.

It’s hard to be suspenseful when you just say everything all bluntly. When you tell, you are blunt. When you show? You are laying out little truths that compel the reader to turn the page and read on. You are giving the pieces of a meal, one bite at a time, rather than shoving a four-course dinner down their throat and making them gag.

It’s the difference between reading the episode recap for Wanda Vision and actually watching the show.

Telling kills immediacy.

Just like distancing language, telling puts a wall up between the reader and the experience of the characters.

If I write, Carrie heard the bomb explode, it’s not as gripping. You are distanced from the experience.

Compare that to if I write,

The bang rippled through the air. The cops’ radios all began squawking with orders and directives as the cops turned as one towards the source of the sound and the smoke…the smoke billowed out and up. Carrie turned with them. The plastic, the soot, the burning on her tongue made it hard to swallow.

WRITING TIP OF THE POD

Show more. Tell less.

DOG TIP FOR LIFE

Show it as best as you can for all the good treats.

RANDOM THOUGHTS

Our random thoughts this week were about:

A stray dog at Dollar General stealing a purple unicorn. He’s okay and found his forever home! Yay! Link from People.

A woman who was allegedly stuck in Florida tunnels and a drain for three weeks. She’s okay! Link from the Miami Herald.

How Shaun announced at the Covid vaccine place that Carrie doesn’t bleed. He’s okay, too. Link from our life.

HEY!

SHOUT OUT!

The music we’ve clipped and shortened in this podcast is awesome and is made available through the Creative Commons License. 

Here’s a link to that and the artist’s website. Who is this artist and what is this song?  It’s “Summer Spliff” by Broke For Free.

And we have a new podcast, LOVING THE STRANGE, which we stream live on Carrie’s Facebook and Twitter and LinkedIn on Fridays. Her Facebook and Twitter handles are all carriejonesbooks or carriejonesbook.

Here’s the link. This week’s podcast is all about strange habits.

almost dead book by carrie jones
almost dead book by carrie jones

HEAR MY BOOK BABY (AND MORE) ON PATREON

On one of my Patreon sites I read and print chapters of unpublished YA novels. THE LAST GODS and SAINT and now ALMOST DEAD. This is a monthly membership site (Hear the book chapters – $1/month, read them $3-month, plus goodies!). Sometimes I send people art! Art is fun.

On this, my second site, WRITE BETTER NOW, you can do a one-time purchase of a writing class or get two of my books in eBook form or just support our podcast or the dogs. It’s all part of the WRITING CLASS OF AWESOME.

It’s a super fun place to hang out, learn, read, and see my weirdness in its true form.

And I’m starting up a brand new, adult paranormal set at a Maine campground. You can read the first chapter here.

Three Quick Tips to Show Instead of Tell

As writers, showing allows us more control over what we’re trying to communicate to the reader. Pretty cool, right?

This week, I’m talking a bit about showing versus telling.

There will be more about this in our podcast, DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE.

As I say there, a lot of writers get the note that they need to show more and tell less and then they are stuck thinking a lot of swear words and end up screaming into their pillow, “HOW DO I EVEN DO THAT?”

Showing is what it sounds like. You are showing what’s happening in the scene or with the character.


Telling is also what it sounds like. You are blunt and direct and are just stating things. Sometimes you’re stating and summarizing.

Showing Example:

Carrie was hungry.

Telling Example:

Her stomach grumbled as Carrie opened the refrigerator. Nothing. Just shelves of sourdough starter and orange-vanilla soda water and left-over crumbs of pizza crust. Pressing her face against the dirty shelf, she tried to lap them up with her tongue. The world wobbled.

“Food,” she whispered. “Please, just a little food.”

Those seem like two totally different stories, right? But they are both just about me being hungry.

When you tell people, they are left filling in the gaps. If you heard, “Carrie was hungry,” I bet you didn’t fill in those gaps quite the way I just did.

As writers, showing allows us more control over what we’re trying to communicate to the reader. Pretty cool, right?

Three Quick Tips to Try to Show Instead of Tell

Use dialogue.

We learn a lot about people by how they talk to other people. Do they use big words? Little words? Dramatic words? Do they just grunt?

“I am terribly disappointed in your behavior.”

“You suck. I can’t believe you freaking did that.”

“Wow. Buttface.”

Those are all about the same thing, but three very different responses, right? Those responses tell us about the characters.

Describe the action rather than state the action.

Telling:

She loved Spring. It gave her joy.

Showing:

She spiraled around, arms out in the air as she waited for the light to change. The moment it did, she started across.

“You’re skipping,” the lady next to her said.

She smiled back at her, weaving around the school children crossing against them. A dog wagged his tail, sniffing some daffodils in the medium. “It’s Spring. Spring is the best.”

Use the setting and make your character actually interact with the setting.

Telling:

I stepped on the porch. It was hot.

Showing:

The rotting wooden boards of the porch popped under my weight as I sniffed my pits. Before I knocked on the red door with its peeling paint and bright orange STAY OUT sign, I pulled at my t-shirt fabric. The humidity made it cling.

There you go! Like I said, I’ll be talking about this in this week’s podcast, but also in my Wednesday post. Just click on the tab for SHOWDON’T TELL to see all the posts about this topic.

Hm. That seemed a little telling, didn’t it? 🙂

Chapters Begin, Chapters End and There are Ways To Do That

This week we’ve been talking all about chapters. Check out the tag CHAPTER to navigate to the other posts and today we’re talking about…

How Do You Begin a Chapter?

There’s a few things you want to do here.

You want to start in a way that makes your reader want to read the story.

You want there to be continuity from the last chapter so it doesn’t feel jerky and episodic.

You want to have a good first line to pull the reader along for the whole length of the chapter. It is the Oreo cookie or potato chip of the writing world. You want to make it so delicious that the reader just can’t eat/read just one sentence, but send them on a gobbling frenzy.

Usually, you want to:

  1. Show where the characters are.
  2. Have some action.
  3. Actually have a character. That should have been #1.

You can start A CHAPTER BY oR WITH:

  1. With setting the scene.
  2. Dialogue, but this isn’t a big hot thing to do right now. If you do this, make it exciting and give us some physical grounding and characters pretty quickly.
  3. In the middle of the action. If you want to be fancy say, in medias res. That’s fancy.

You want to make sure THE CHAPTER Is:

  1. Not boring.
  2. Makes sense with the rest of the story.
  3. That we readers know where the characters are. You don’t want them just floating out in the ether (usually). That’s why you want to give us the who, what, when, where, why of the story, too.
  4. That the chapter has a point. If you took this chapter out, would you still have a story? If so, the chapter needs to go. (I made that rhyme.)

That’s really such an important question that I’m going to repeat it:

If you took the chapter out, would the story still make sense?

If it does, then you want to take that chapter out.

Or — If so, the chapter needs to go.

I really can’t resist a dorky rhyme.

Along those lines, your chapter should do a couple things:

  1. Help the character transform.
  2. Give the character a goal and show movement or loss towards that goal.
  3. Be part of the novel’s cause and effect that creates the novel’s plot.
  4. Have an ending that compels the reader to keep reading after the pause.

This is really part of what it means when I say that your chapter needs to have a point.

Chapter Endings.

These little babies are what worry a lot of writers. How do you end things? You’ve been in a relationship with this chapter for a long few pages, hammering out the words on the keyboard, spending time together.

It’s so hard to let go!

But seriously, when should your time together end?

Good times to end your chapter are:

  1. After a big turning point in your story. If you’re following a beat sheet or outline, those turning points are great places to pause.
  2. Right before a big turning point in your story.
  3. Right after something scary happened.
  4. Right before something scary happens.
  5. Right after something emotionally resonating happened.
  6. Right after something is figured out.

Look at your favorite books and the last three paragraphs of each chapter. What just happened? What’s about to happen? You can learn a lot about chapter breaks and structure this way.

A lot of times you’ll see that where The Chapters end are:

  1. Moments of suspense. Something big is about to happen.
  2. Moments of reflection. The character is thinking about something big that just happened.
  3. Moments of questioning. The what do I do or what did I do times.

There! I hoped this helped a bit!

LET’S HANG OUT!

Do you want to take a little online course, learn with me as your writing coach, buy some art or listen to our podcasts? Or give me a buck and read unpublished books on Patreon?

Just  CLICK ON THIS LINK and find out how we can interact more

And to hear our podcast latest episode for DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE about bears in outhouses and chapter titles, click here.

Bear in the Outhouse. Chapter Titles and You

Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Bear in the Outhouse. Chapter Titles and You
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This week on Carrie’s blog, carriejonesbooks.blog, she’s talking all about chapters and so we’re talking about them on the podcast, too, because Carrie’s controlling like that.

And what we’re talking about specifically is chapter titles.

You can divide your books into chapters and just label them numerically, 1, 2, 3… But you can also give them a title like:

Chapter One

Surviving the Podcast

Here’s the thing.

Chapter Titles Help Your Readers

How do they help your readers? In a lot of ways.

Grab attention.

You put these bad boys at the top of the chapter. And the reader thinks, “Ah! Look at that! I am paying attention.”

Tell readers who they are focusing on now.

If you have a story with multiple point of views, you can put who this chapter is focused on here.

Show location or time changes.

You can give the reader some help. If you have a time jumping, place jumping novel. You can use this space to say, “Hey, we are in sexy Scotland in 2021.” Or you can say, “Look, we’re in Zambia in August.”

Show theme or the future.

It’s like a happy little spoiler where the reader goes, “Oh, that’s what this chapter is about.” This can be about theme, too.

Show Echoes.

A chapter title can be a first sentence.

Summing it up: And there you go. A quick bit about chapter titles and what they can do for you.

WRITING TIP OF THE POD

Chapter titles are good tools. Use them.

DOG TIP FOR LIFE

Use whatever you can to communicate things to your human. Wag. Growl. Bark. Spin in circles. Hit them with your paw. They are stupid and need a lot of help understanding what you’re putting down.

In our Random Thoughts We Talked About

Bears in the outhouse

Snake in an Inhaler

SHOUT OUT!

The music we’ve clipped and shortened in this podcast is awesome and is made available through the Creative Commons License. 

Here’s a link to that and the artist’s website. Who is this artist and what is this song?  It’s “Summer Spliff” by Broke For Free.

And we have a new podcast, LOVING THE STRANGE, which we stream live on Carrie’s Facebook and Twitter and LinkedIn on Fridays. Her Facebook and Twitter handles are all carriejonesbooks or carriejonesbook.

Here’s the link. This week’s podcast is all about spontaneous combustion and poop styles.