Being a Better Writer’s Summer of Cliche Writing Advice: Show Don’t Tell

Welcome back readers, and welcome to the second installment of Being a Better Writer’s Summer of Cliche Writing Advice! Where we, one week at a time, will be taking a look at all those cliche, kitschy sayings that always seem to follow people in the wake of any writing project. Those one-sentence colloquialisms that are tossed out by the dozen on Facebook, Tumblr, or even in real life.

You know, the quick, easy to remember, easy to spout off stuff that sounds fairly smart.

Well … is it? Because last week I compared these sayings to a sculpture that had been carved in a game of telephone: something that’s been passed around so much and so often that while the general shape is sort of in line with things, the rest of the details are more caricatures of actual elements then real, detailed items.

And this summer? For the next few months, Being a Better Writer is going to dig into these bits of cliche advice and see what they really have to offer. Is there wisdom in there? Something we can glean from a such a distilled saying? Or has it been passed on and reduced for brevity so many times that the saying is effectively worthless?

Well, that’s what the Summer of Cliche Writing Advice is all about. We’re going to break these sayings down, And this week’s quick quip of choice?

Show Don’t Tell.

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Being a Better Writer: Atmosphere

Welcome back, readers! It’s Monday once again, and that means it is time for another Being a Better Writer post! But first, a bit of background.

Did you know that the first Being a Better Writer post went up August 2nd, 2013? It wasn’t on this site initially, being hosted on a free blog, but has since been transferred to here (it was The Art of Misdirection for the curious). Five days later, Misdirection being such a popular success, it was followed by a post on why writers need to read. Then a post on details. Before long, Being a Better Writer was a regular, weekly Monday post, and has been ever since, even when migrated from that blog and onto this site.

That means in just two months, BaBW will have been being regularly posted for six years. To put another spin on it, I only published my first book in February of 2013. I’ve been doing Being a Better Writer almost as long as I’ve been published. Once a week, baring holidays. That’s something like 47-48 posts a year. For six years.

All provided free of charge for any who may come across them. Being a Better Writer has appeared in college English course syllabi, on writing forums, on Reddit, and linked from just about everywhere. Sands, I’ve even had people attempt to “borrow” it. More than likely, there are a few places that have that I don’t know about too.

But again, all free of charge, and as of several years ago, now on an ad-free site.

The point I’m getting at? No, Being a Better Writer isn’t ending. Nor is it slowing down. There are enough writing topics out there that they’ll probably never run out. So don’t worry about that.

No, what I am suggesting is that if you’re a regular or long time reader of Being a Better Writer, don’t forget that there’s an author working to make ends meet behind the screen. One that has faithfully delivered a new Being a Better Writer post once a week, save holidays, for nigh-on six years. It’s a one-man show here on the other end where BaBW is concerned. Topics have to be found, research has to be done, the post themselves have to be written …Over six years that’s totaled over half a million words worth of writing advice. That’s a lot of material. If each BaBW post was condensed into an average lengthy novel (120,000) words, that’d make it a five-book series. Or just two shorter-than-average books of my own.

That’s a significant investment. I’m not trying to toot my own horn by bringing this to your attention, though. What I’m suggesting is that if you’ve ever found Being a Better Writer useful, whether it’s as the occasional reader, someone who shows up every week to read the newest post, a student from a college that’s syllabi made us of it … Whatever your initial cause for coming across it, please consider the fingers at the keyboard behind it. Maybe share the post so that more eyes can see it. Or, if you’ve got some spare cash, you can always purchase a book to support the author and see if they follow their own advice. You can even become a Patreon supporter, funding from which is used to keep the site ad-free.

But even a share is great. Did you like a Being a Better Writer post here on the site? Share it on Facebook, Twitter. Let those you know, well, know. They may find it just as useful.

Alright, I’ve said my six-year piece. Now, on to today’s post! Atmosphere!

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Being a Better Writer: You Can’t Make Up Rules When the Reader Knows What They Are

Welcome back readers! It’s JUNE!

Right, I know. Hunter/Hunted isn’t out yet. But I’d plan on it this month. Editing is … well, it’s a process. Both it and Jungle are inching closer toward release … But that’s all that needs to be said there. Right now?

Right now, we’re going to talk about some small rules of writing. Small but vital, and which fall under that mouthful of a title up above.

Now some of you might have guessed, and correctly, that today’s title falls under a rule I’ve talked about more than once on this site: Always do the research. It doesn’t matter what you’re writing, from hydraulics to genetics, you need to do the research.

But today just isn’t quite about that. It falls under the same umbrella, absolutely, but there’s a bit more to it. While “always do the research,” whenever I’ve said it, has almost always been about the big things … today is more about the small things, and less about the science of something works and more the methodology.

Don’t get me wrong. If you’re going to write about a character studying genetics at a college somewhere in the US, you should work to get the genetic information right. But what about the order in which they study about genetics. What about their classes, or the way their teachers present information? The way their labs are set up?

See, while you may be able to make up material that can fill all those gaps, and get the science right, you can also run into a problem of someone else who’s been through that experience or adjacent to it might be able to look right at it and say ‘Wait a minute, those two things are correct, yes … but they’re also out of order.’

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Being a Better Writer: Micro-Blast #7 – The Anti-Story, Sleep, Knowledge, Capitalism

Welcome back readers! And welcome to the new readers! Life, The Universe, and Everything is over, but I can already see from the stats page that we have some newcomers! Welcome! Whether you’re here to look at my books, or here for some weekly Being a Better Writer, welcome all the same!

So then, let’s get down to business with this week’s post, which is … a Micro-blast. Number seven, to be exact. What’s a Micro-blast? Well, it’s what happens when I near the end of a list of writing topics I’ve made for BaBW, and some of them just aren’t quite worth a full post, but are still worth discussing. Micro-blasts are a good way to bridge the gap, combining several shorter topics into one post so that there’s still a decent amount of material covered. Readers get a variety of subjects, and I get to clear some shorter topics and concepts off of my list.

Sound pretty straightforward? Good! Then let’s go!

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Being a Better Writer: Garbage

Welcome back readers to another Monday entry of Being a Better Writer! I’ve just got one bit of news to talk about, and then we can cut right to the chase and talk about garbage.

That news? Life, The Universe, and Everything is NEXT WEEK! That is right! LTUE is literally around the corner of the weekend, this February 14th-16th. Will you be there? I sure will be, and I can’t wait! Hope to see you there!

Now, back to the the topic at hand. I’ll wager a number of you are pretty curious about what I’m referring to with a title like that. Garbage books? Garbage story? Garbage plots? Garbage tropes?

Nope. None of the above. Instead, I want to talk about something else. Worldbuilding garbage. That’s right, today is a worldbuilding post, that lovely topic of sitting down to draft and create worlds. But again, when I say worldbuilding garbage, a number of you may be thinking in less concrete terms than I actually am.

No, today I’m being absolutely straight. No metaphor or comparison here. I’m talking about actual garbage. Refuse, trash, debris, etc etc etc.

What does your world do with it?

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Being a Better Writer: Keeping Details in Line

Afternoon readers!

It’ll be a short one today (in addition to being late). Why? Christmas season at my part-time. We’re doing lots of holiday parties and the like, and we’re doing them every day. Which means … late nights, lots of them, flipping rooms. On the one hand, extra cash and hours … on the other, extra hours that are late. You know, 4 AM late.

Tired? Why yes I am now that you mention it.

Long story short, it means I’m a bit tired, and so got up later than normal. Today’s post will also be a bit shorter than normal.

But that doesn’t make it by any means a topic that’s less important. In fact, today’s topic is a basic one that is absolutely vital but can still be overlooked, as I’ll demonstrate here in a moment. Today, I want to talk about keeping details in line with one another. Or in other words …

Continuity.

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Being a Better Writer: The Static Character

Sorry for the lateness of today’s post, readers. It wasn’t because I had work, or because I was indisposed by some sudden surprise event or something. No it was simply because I was tired and decided to catch up on sleep. And catch up I did. I slept … crud, I’m not even sure, but it was more than eight hours by a long shot. I’ll probably do the same tomorrow.

Anyway, we’re actually venturing off the list this week with today’s post. For two reasons. The first is that there’s only one topic left on Topic List XI. The second is that this post was inspired by a book I read last week that left a strong impression on me for the exact problem we’ll be talking about today (which means I also won’t be naming the book, since it’s otherwise fairly good, and that’s my usual approach as to not turn readers off from it).

So then what is this problem? Well, you’ve seen the title. So what am I talking about when I say “The Static Character?”

Well, really quickly, let’s get out of the way what it isn’t, at least how we’re speaking of it today. Because a “static character” description can be used as a catch-all phrase for a character that doesn’t do much or doesn’t contribute, and this can include speaking of the events of the story. Different reviewers will use the phrase interchangeably for similar concepts all the time, but that’s usually what it boils down to: A character that does little and doesn’t move.

But there’s another aspect that the term can refer to, and that’s the one that I want to talk about today. The character that does stuff, is involved in the story … but never changes or shifts as a character.

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