The "Ten Commandments according to John"

Discussion in 'Publishing' started by Gary Compton, Feb 23, 2008.

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    Gary Compton

    Gary Compton King Harvey Basset R.I.P

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    I picked up these "do not do's" from another thread by John Jarrold...seems good advice.

    My question on number 10, can you bring information in through a character's POV based on what he knows?, his past experiences, people he has met, memories etc?

    1. Awful dialogue - read it out loud, does it sound natural, coming from your mouth?
    2. Hackneyed plots. No discernable focus to the book or sense of continuity.
    3. No Clichés.
    4. A complete lack of wit or humor.
    5. "Characters" who are only talking heads.
    6. A lack of background and foreground.
    7. No idea of the commercial market
    8. Lots of telling from the outside, rather then seeing the story from specific characters' point-of-view
    9. Only use one character throughout a scene, don't jump around. 'Show, don't tell'
    10. And, of course: don’t use huge expository lumps. The dreaded info-dump.
     
  2.  
    John Jarrold

    John Jarrold New Member

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    Yes, absolutely. As a rounded character, he or she has a past, and the reader can know that through his/her thoughts and conversations.
     
  3.  
    Gary Compton

    Gary Compton King Harvey Basset R.I.P

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    I nearly wrote The "Ten Commandments according to St John" but I thought I should await your knighthood first:)
     
  4.  
    Gary Compton

    Gary Compton King Harvey Basset R.I.P

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    Joking aside,I have laminated the ten commandments and put it on the wall in my office with a note...READ EVERYDAY!!
     
    Last edited: Feb 23, 2008
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    John Jarrold

    John Jarrold New Member

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    Now I'm getting worried...
     
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    Gary Compton

    Gary Compton King Harvey Basset R.I.P

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    You should be!
     
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    Kissmequick

    Kissmequick loony

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    Quick question

    What exactly do you mean by 'telling from the outside'?

    I think I know, just want to make sure.
     
  8.  
    John Jarrold

    John Jarrold New Member

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    Every scene should be shown through the eyes and thoughts of a specific character. Not told from an outside viewpoint, where the reader knows the thoughts and motivations of every character in a scene. So the POV character can only intuit what others are thinking, and the reader can only know, in that scene, what the POV character knows. With more than one POV character running through a book, the reader can, of course, know more than any of them know individually, which readers love! George R R Martin does this brilliantly in A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE. Interweaving storylines, each with its own POV character, building into a whole.
     
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    Kissmequick

    Kissmequick loony

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    Right, got it. Thanks
     
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    John Jarrold

    John Jarrold New Member

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    It was the year 1529. In the cold, castle room, two men eyed each other across a mighty wooden table. They had known each other since they were children...

    That's telling.

    Alaric Morton eyed Guiscard across the table, holding back a shiver from the icy cold. He'd known the Gascon since they were children...

    That's showing.
     
  11.  
    Scarfy

    Scarfy Stephen J Sweeney

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    That's a great example. The showing is a lot more natural.

    Is telling always bad? I mean, do you find it particularly off putting?
     
  12.  
    John Jarrold

    John Jarrold New Member

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    As I said, 'Show, don't tell' is on every fiction editor's heart in 2008. Showing involves the reader inside your protagonists' heads, behind their eyes. Telling from outside puts a pane of glass between the reader and the action. Anything that comes to me told I throw back instantly and reject.
     
  13.  
    lathark

    lathark KDL

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    How far would you take this John, because in theory, it is possible only to show, not tell.

    Secondly what do you think writers giving hints into the futer :- 'she would not know that until later.'

    cheers
     
  14.  
    lathark

    lathark KDL

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    Sorry about the typo, bloody keyboard...hahha

    What do you think of writers hinting about the future...
     
  15.  
    SJAB

    SJAB The storyteller

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    Gary; you had to post that list didn't you.:eek: It's got me breaking out in a cold sweat.:eek: (though that could possibly have something to do with my age ;))

    I have just started my annual edit of my "epic fantasy". I try each year to apply what I have learned about writing in the previous 12 months to this monster of a story. Not that I ever expect to sell it, ROFL! It is a useful way of charting my progress, (or lack of it) as a writer.:D
     
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    John Jarrold

    John Jarrold New Member

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    No, don't prefigure like that. Stay in the moment. If you are in a POV character's head, they cannot know that they won't know something until later. Thus, neither can the reader. Of course there are occasions where a quick tell is useful, but I would always say that 99% of the time, showing is immediate. Telling puts distance between the reader and the characters.

    And please, don't anyone mention that some classic novels include telling. I know that. But styles change over time. I'm talking about what editors are looking for in 2008.
     
  17.  
    Gary Compton

    Gary Compton King Harvey Basset R.I.P

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    Sorry about that. I thought it might get a reaction though. Writing is now dead easy come up with a brilliant idea, observe with unswerving dedication the "Ten Commandments" and Bob's your Uncle. Couldn't be easier;)
     
  18.  
    John Jarrold

    John Jarrold New Member

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    Ho-bloody-ho!!!
     
  19.  
    Gary Compton

    Gary Compton King Harvey Basset R.I.P

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    Could they sense the future by intuition or psychic awareness?
     
  20.  
    Gary Compton

    Gary Compton King Harvey Basset R.I.P

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    I know!
     

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