Bending the Rules

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As I was writing an Amazon review for a book I read this week, something told me to reread the epilogue—this time with a critical eye.

I found that here, unlike in the rest of the book, the author predominantly used telling. Even though has been a big “no no” for a long time, I am not against it being done in an epilogue. After all, the purpose of an epilogue is to tell what happened after the story and tie up loose ends. 

I, personally, don’t use telling in my epilogues, but I don’t see the harm in it. 

I do often use telling in my characters’ direct thoughts, however. After all, when I think my thoughts, I don’t censure them and make sure they are showing, not telling. I bet you don’t either. 

As authors, all of our writing should be as authentic as possible. That includes the thoughts of our characters. So, with that in mind, it should be perfectly fine to write something as direct as: I don’t know why I should even care what my cousin thinks. He lies about me and talks behind my back. He has always been nothing but trouble.

As long as it is clear that our character is thinking direct thoughts, telling should be permissible.

Finally, writing in the first person can also allow for bending the rule. The case may be made that this POV is largely internal thoughts and, as such, should allow for some telling.

However, epilogues, direct thoughts, and first person POV are the only instances in which our “show, don’t tell” rule can be broken. 

Remember, showing is always more exciting and should be given preference whenever possible.

Welcome–Come On In!

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You hear the music and laughter as you walk up the steps and ring the doorbell. The host of the party opens the door, steps outside, and tells you about the great time guests are having inside. Then, he closes the door, leaving you standing there thinking, “I got an invitation. Why didn’t the guy invite me in?”

Contrast that with a gathering I went to recently. A few moments after I knocked on the door, the host ushered me into his home. Smiling, he offered me a drink, showed me where the snacks were, and drew me into a fun conversation with a group of party-goers.

I immediately felt at home…valued…welcome. 

Sound like some books you’ve read?

Sometimes you feel like your time and money have been wasted; others have a way of keeping you turning the pages late into the night. 

What makes the difference?

The author of the second book welcomed you in, showed you to the snack table, and made your stay interesting. 

As writers, we are told to begin our books by dropping our reader into the midst of action. This is “showing.”

But, some writers “tell” their stories. And that doesn’t make the reader feel as much a part of the reading experience.

Dropping the reader into the midst of the action is MORE than just making the story exciting. It also makes the reader feel they are sharing in the experience.

They’ve been invited to the party and welcomed inside.