3. Show, Don't Tell
Like a good conversation, a writer must engage the reader in a story that illustrates so well they're entrapped within the confines of it, whether based on familiarity, emotion, or curiosity.
However, consider telling every once in awhile. For instance:
"Martha struggled to pay her bills on time, and to top it off, her children were failing school."
The line above was an example of what most people advise you to avoid. Consider the statement further, though, and you might realize Martha's top priority is paying the bills on time, rather than the performance of her children at school. It could be rationalized, that, paying the bills is crucial to the well-being of a family, but wouldn't a mother be worried about her children more than her financial woes? In this example, the writer has avoided boring detail about the economy and proposed a perplexing twist to Martha's character.
If a picture is worth a thousand words, then it will need a damn good frame.
2. "Avoid Cliches Like the Plague"
The late New York Times columnist Willian Safire came up with this lovely piece of advice as a sure way to help writers. Each word a writer uses determines how unique their writing and story can be.
However, it's quite obvious this piece of advice is followed by a cliche. Yes, Safire found this amusing in a self-deprecating kind of way. Yet, this piece of advice is famous because of the cliche itself. It's how you remember it.
Sometimes the point of writing is to get the idea across, and works must be written in a way that will translate into something great in the reader's mind, which on rare occasion, warrants the use of a cliche.
1.Write What You Know
One of my all-time favorite horror movies is A Nightmare on Elm Street, either because it still can catch me by surprise or it was the first horror movie I remember seeing. Either way, good stuff.
When Wes Craven began working on the film, though, he sure as hell didn't construct a bladed glove, find the ugliest sweater in the world, burn his face, practice his laugh, and start slaughtering teenagers after becoming an expert on infiltrating dreams.
This is what really happened:
"When I looked down there was a man very much like Freddy walking along the sidewalk. He must have sensed that someone was looking at him and stopped and looked right into my face. He scared the living daylights out of me, so I jumped back into the shadows. I waited and waited to to hear him walk away. Finally I thought he must have gone, so I stepped back to the window. The guy was not only still looking at me but he thrust his head forward as if to say ' Yes, I'm still looking at you."
The strange man walked down the street and turned the corner toward the apartment-building entrance as Craven watched in horror. " I ran through the apartment to our front door as he was walking into our building on the lower floor. I heard him starting up the stairs. My brother, who is ten years older than me, got a baseball bat and went out to the corridor but he was gone.
As an adult I can look back and say that was one of the most profoundly frightening experiences I have ever had. The guy has never left my mind, nor has the feeling of how frightening an adult stranger can be. He was not only frightening, but he was amused by the fact he was frightening and able to anticipate my inner thoughts."
Do you see what happened there?
Craven didn't go out and experience all the things he wrote about. To write about a killer, a writer must recall one of the most horrifying moments of their life and draw from it. This is what, I think, is truly meant by "write what you know."
Don't Take My Advice.
As always, I remind you advice is simply advice. But I hope this helps point out the fallacies behind certain common writing beliefs - or rather, sheds light on how they have lost ties to their original meanings. If a writer had all the right answers, they wouldn't feel the need to write.
Fear, focus, and the future. C.M. Humphries talks about writing, horror, and whatever.