The Writers' Maxim



Show don't tell is an important part of a writer's rule book. 
I realised the other day that it's also an important life rule. 

Generally it's older people who want to impart their knowledge wisdom and experience to younger people.  Younger people often resent this and raise their eyes to the ceiling.  But I've also noticed that the young expect older people to know nothing about,  for example, technology and are dying to give the old folks the benefit of their knowledge. 

Frequently, this is the fault of the older generation, some of whom make a religion out of being luddites, boasting about their lack of expertise and/or interest in technology.  This then means that younger people tar all with the same brush. 

This luddite behaviour amongst older people really annoys me, because as a result, younger people have an excuse to patronise and 'be kind' to older people and treat them like idiots in the technology department. For someone like me who taught IT in the 90s, often before many of these were born and who knows quite a bit more about technology than they do, it's especially annoying.

The other subject area where everyone (I mean everyone) nowadays has become a self professed expert is nutrition. 
I read a lot about nutrition in my younger days to counteract my children's various ailments. I was aware that I knew more than most people about vitamins, minerals, sources of B vitamins, protein, carbs etc.  I switched to wholemeal bread and bought organic potatoes, onions, carrots from the late seventies.  I became a vegetarian in 1983, having studied how to balance proteins properly in a veggie diet (pulses, soya products, cheese/dairy/eggs (if you eat it) and nuts).  I was considered by most friends and family to be a bit weird and somewhat annoying.  I didn't talk about it or lecture about it, but I didn't eat meat. There were no vegetarian restaurants.  If you went for a meal out and said you didn't eat meat, mostly the response was ' ... er we've got salad?'   Attitudes began to change in the early 90s - now  a lunch venue might have ONE veggie option  '... er we've got goat's cheese?'  Goat's cheese has always induced nausea in me ... I can't eat it.  Besides if you're vegan, what do you eat?

Where, you may well ask, is all this leading to?   Well today, have you noticed, that now EVERYONE has become a nutritional expert.  Vegans and vegetarians abound. Facebook is constantly full of nutritional horror stories.  Don't you DARE put up a picture of a nice meal you're having somewhere.  You will be lectured about the dangers of eating soya, fruit (pesticides), cheese, rice, potatoes, anything.  Those eggs you're eating are they free range organic, no REALLY free range from a small farm where chickens peck in the open? Is that bread gluten free? Gosh all that sugar in that cake! Many of these recent 'experts' drink large amounts of alcohol in the evenings. This won't stop them lecturing you either face to face or via Facebook about what not to eat - mostly anything except raw organic carrots.

What's all this got to do with 'show don't tell'?  I had a light bulb moment, listening to myself talking to someone a lot younger the other day.   When you tell someone in that tone, that let me tell you how it 'ought' to be done tone'  .... they stop listening. Their eyes glaze over.  If someone does it to me, I stop listening.  

I've come to the conclusion (yes it's taken me this long) that the only way to impart your knowledge to others of any age is to (1) wait to be asked - accept it's not going to happen very often or (2)  just demonstrate by your own actions the way you do it. 

Show don't tell – the writers’ maxim. In writing it means don't tell a long boring story. Bring your piece of writing to life by making it unfold, scene by scene, so it's happening here and now, with dialogue and action.  

And in everyday life? Demonstrate by your own actions, the way you do it and hope they take note. Ultimately you can't change others or the way they do things.  You can only change yourself. . . .


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Out now on Kindle or in print, my latest publication
 Published January 2018.

Writing Memoir.  How to Tell a Story from Your Life.

You can buy it on Amazon. available on Kindle  - CLICK HERE
       by Anna Meryt

Got a true story to tell?  Want to know how to write about it?  Read this book.







Keep calm and keep going


    


     I started writing my new book over a year ago.  Unlike the best-selling self published crime writer Mark Dawson, I'm not able to knock out a book every three months.  And his books are good too - I love his John Milton series.   Not only does he write best selling crime fiction he puts out a constant stream of useful webinairs for other writers and runs courses (if you can afford them) to teach you how to market your book AND there's free talks on You Tube too.
     Meanwhile back in my world ... it took me a year to write Writing Memoir.  How to Write a Story from Your Life, which has just been published.

My previous book, (A Hippopotamus at the Table) a proper memoir, took me 5+ years. 

     So maybe I'm getting faster... but I don't think I'll ever be in Mr Dawson's speed league.
     Of course  (I'm not criticising him, just jealous) he has, I believe, a wife who presumably does his cooking and cleaning and washing. Male writers frequently do. They can lock themselves in their study and their meals are brought to them.  They've put on clean clothes that morning - ironed too no doubt by the wives/partners. Or even, if they are in Mr Dawson's best seller league, they can pay others to do their chores.
     So I'm looking for a male 'wife' to do all that so I can concentrate entirely on my writing.  He must be well off, perhaps early retired too, so he can support me in times of scrabbling around for pennies to fund my writing enterprises. Any takers?  I'm putting it out there.
     By the way, if anyone is buying my book, perhaps you would like to write a review. This would be immensely helpful.  If I can build up 20-50 reviews, I can put my book forward for promotion on BookBub and GoodReads and that would give an enormous boost to book sales and my writing career.  Here's a link to the review page Amazon Review page for my book
*****
    Moving on ... I'm about half way through writing my second memoir. 
     And I'm floundering somewhat.  A proper memoir should be structured something like a novel.  It should carry you from chapter to chapter.  Each chapter should end in a way that makes you want to turn over the page. I've just written a new chapter and it seems ... well  ... somewhat lacklustre.  It needs an injection of oomph, it doesn't inspire me to carry on writing into the next chapter, let alone inspire a reader to carry on. 
     What to do?  Should I tear it up and start again. Too drastic. What would lift it from bumping along the silt at the bottom of the pond to being a silver fish, bursting through the water and jumping into the sunlight full of energy.   I think I'll read it through and see if I can jazz it up, restructure it, add more colour, sound, smell. 

Any comments or suggestions gratefully received - to my website or to anna.meryt@ameryt.com.

 My new book, published January 2018.

Writing Memoir.  How to Tell a Story from Your Life.

You can buy it on Amazon.   [25th Jan 2018 - Hold that thought - I've currently had to suspend print book sales due to problems with the cover.  These are being fixed and will be back for sale on Amazon very shortly. - meanwhile it is still available on Kindle - KDP  - CLICK HERE

And here's a taster from the book:




Ten points to remember in the art of story telling

and narrative, in memoir writing.

1.  A good plot and well-defined characters, brought to life by dialogue.  Structuring a narrative is the most important thing you’ll do.  There’s the narrative thread, unfolding   story, for the whole book.  Then chapter by chapter, building to climactic moments, creating dialogue and developing characters.
2. Emotional content Think about the emotional impact of what happened to you. You really want the reader to ‘get’ that, to be involved from the start.  The emotional content for all the other characters involved comes next and how they interact with you and each other.
3. Starting point. Begin at a really interesting point in your story – a pivotal moment. The story should grip the reader from the opening sentence. Then work back, showing how the story got to that point..

4. Empathy with the narrator/protagonist – in memoir, that’s you.  This is vital to keep up reader interest in carrying on reading so they really want to know what happens to you. 

5. Mood changes – that’s not your mood, it’s the mood changes of the story.  If you have something dramatic happen, which carries on for a few chapters until it’s resolved, maybe you need a chapter where everyone calms down, here and there.

6. How to end a chapter?   Each chapter should end in such a way that the reader HAS to turn to the next page to find out what happened next.  The links between chapters should flow smoothly

When I wrote my first memoir, my editor told me. ‘It’s like a series of anecdotes’. So I went back and re-wrote beginnings and endings of chapters so it flowed more smoothly.

7. Your story is unique, whatever the genre. Build the reader's involvement slowly, take them down a few tangents. Don’t reveal it all straightway, so it's not clear where the story’s going. Keep some surprises for the end.  Build the reader's anticipation.

8. Setting is important, culture, country, rural, urban. Your story will start/end in a specific place.  Think about the place and how the characters move around the objects – it’s like writing a scene for a play.

9. Colour, sound smell. Make your references to these unusual and un-clich├ęd.  Don’t for example refer to the sparkling turquoise sea, or the white glare of the sun.  Try and think of unusual ways to say these things.

10.Endings:  If you set up a puzzle or conundrum or mystery about what’s happening in your story, keep teasing the reader about how it’s going to end. The story should move towards some kind of resolution, some kind of satisfaction of the plot that ties together the whole story. You can do this just as well with memoir as with fiction.