Over the past few years I’ve discovered there are a large number of quick fixes in writing, particularly in dealing with the “context” of how a passage is written. And I’d like to share my experience with other writers, pointing out the simple fixes to return the balance of perspective for the reader.
In doing so, I’ll provide real writing examples, because I love to show. So let’s see if you can spot the mistakes within the first line of each example. All are written in 3rd Person from the heroine’s POV.
- She heard the tap of John’s boots coming into the bedroom before she saw his tall, athletic body, his head held high, his stride firm.
I’ll rewrite to fix the sequence of events. Read the changes and see which of the two you believe is more accurate.
- She heard the tap of boots in the hallway. Someone was coming. The bedroom door opened and John strode in, his chin lifting, his white t-shirt pulling tight across a broad chest.
Both passages say the same thing–but which do you prefer? If you’ve noticed, in the first example we are “told” what is happening, and in the second there is a switch to “showing.” Do we really know who’s coming into a room before we see them? And how do we show an athletic body? How do we show a head held high? Read it again and see what you think. Is the rewrite more accurate?
Let’s do another example. To set the scene the heroine has rung her divorced mother, telling her she has a problem with her father.
- Anger sizzled down the phone line. “What has your father done now?” her mother asked.
I’ll rewrite to fix the context of writing, because can anger really sizzle down a line? No. We understand what is being said in the line, but there is a better way to “show” it.
- “What has your father done now?” her mother bit out, low and hard.
In this rewrite we hear the dialogue first–and this is the key. For how is our heroine meant to know her mother is angry before she even speaks? She can only know once she has, and only from the tone of her voice. Anger is an emotion, and not viewable down a phone line. It is heard, and therefore must be shown in the correct way.
I hope I’ve enlightened with these quick fixes in dealing with “context in writing.” If you’ve enjoyed this week’s post, then tune in next week for some more tidbits. Simply check out the right-hand side panel, and enter your email address to “follow the blog.” If you want, also click “like” on my FB author page to the right. I’d love you to join me.
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