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Showing vs. Telling in Fiction: Some Tools

showvstellI did a workshop this past weekend at a writers conference on showing versus telling in fiction. I prepped for it and made a powerpoint and a handout and practiced what I was going to say and had hands-on writing exercises and everything. People who took the workshop said they got something out of it, but I can’t help feeling like I didn’t quite hit the nail on the head with this. Oh well. Here are some tips, stolen from my handout:


Verbs are your friends: For example, you could write “Hermione walked to the library.” Or, you could try, 

Hermione snuck to the library.

Hermione trudged to the library.

Hermione marched to the library.

Sometimes using a strong verb can create a more powerful image than using an adverb. For example, you could write, “Ron wrote his name messily on the chalkboard.” Or, you could try,

Ron scrawled his name on the chalkboard.  or  Ron scribbled his name on the chalkboard.

Don’t forget the details, details, details! For example, look at this beautiful paragraph:

Harry took the wand. He felt a sudden warmth in his fingers. He raised the wand above his head, brought it swishing down through the dusty air and a stream of red and gold sparks shot from the end like a firework, throwing dancing spots of light on to the walls. Hagrid whooped and clapped and Mr. Olivander cried, “Oh, bravo!”

 You can show character through dialogue.  For example, if you know Draco is an elitist; Draco is arrogant; Draco is self-important, then you might, like J.K. Rowling, write a sentence like this:

“You’ll soon find out some wizarding families are much better than others, Potter. You don’t want to go making friends with the wrong sort. I can help you there.”

This isn’t magic or rocket science. It’s stronger, more vivid writing.  You are trying to create a visceral connection between your reader and your work, not just an intellectual one. So go for the guts, not just the head.


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Secret Agenting

charlie's angelsSo, guess what? I was the “Secret Agent” on the Miss Snark’s First Victim blog last week! I was so flattered when I was asked to participate. I mean, have you seen the roster of Secret Agents that have participated?! Thank you, Authoress! And, if you haven’t read the Miss Snark blog, go do it now. Even though it hasn’t been updated in 8 years, it’s still up on the interwebs for all to read, learn from, cringe and laugh at. Totally worth it.

But enough about Miss Snark and Authoress… this is MY blog and well, if you haven’t figured it out yet, It’s all about ME! (Just kidding, dear readers, it’s all about you. No really. I mean it. It really is about you.)

images-1As I re-read the comments I made on the 50 (FIFTY!!!) entries to the contest, I really got that I don’t sugarcoat anything. I mean, I don’t want to sugarcoat it if I’m saying what needs to be said, but there’s also the part where I want people to like me. So, for the participants of the Secret Agent contest, for queriers who I’ve rejected yet given feedback to, to people at conferences who have received critiques from me, to my clients whose work is at the other end of my red pencil, I have this to say: It’s my commitment to drawing out the best work that’s in you that has me say the things I say. I feel it’s necessary that you know how your written words might be landing to an agent reading your work. It may be harsh to hear, but I’m more committed to helping you improve your writing than I am to making you feel good.

So, I certainly apologize if I’ve ever hurt anybody’s feelings by a critique. But now, put those feelings aside and get back to work. You’re a writer, after all. That’s what you do.


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My new intern!


I’d like to introduce my new intern, Kimberly Richardson. Kimberly’s going to tell you a little bit about herself, but let me just say here and now, she’s terrific! We just started working together and I’m already appreciating her good work and lovely company.

Hi all! I’m Kimberly and currently a graduate student in the MS Publishing program at Pace University. I got my BA in English from Queens College and live on Long Island. Having been born and raised in upstate New York, I was inexplicably drawn to the City and at 18 made the move down. Since moving here I have experienced the beauty of the beaches and the enthralling, gritty factor of the City.

Kim Photo BioI worked at a funeral home while getting my BA and really enjoyed being able to help people. While there, I decided I needed to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. Having an English degree and failing to grab a job as an editorial assistant (or any publishing industry assistant for that matter) I knew I had to take a plunge; one that would help me in making connections and be a more appealing employee in the career I was seeking. So I applied to Pace and now I’m pursuing a dream I didn’t even know I had. I love the program and am even more excited about the people I am meeting and the opportunities that are unfolding. I didn’t realize this program would open so many doors and give me confidence in deciding where I want my degree to take me.

Deciding on this path shouldn’t have been as hard as I made it for the simple fact that I have always loved books. I began really reading with the American Girl series in third grade and I remember being captivated by how the story unfolded on the pages. Before that I hadn’t really grasped the power words could have on a person or their imagination. Throughout middle school and high school I read anything I could get my hands on and read a lot of fantasy, sci-fi and crime thriller (think Michael Crichton, Thomas Harris, J.K. Rowling). The books during those years, especially Harry Potter, defined the kind of reader I was becoming. Books helped shape the way I thought and felt and my imagination. Today, I still find nothing more satisfying than finishing a book I’ve been able to connect with and continuing to read books that influence who I am.

As any good student, I love reading, writing, and learning. I always say that if I could go to school for the rest of my life without becoming broke I would. For me, education and reading go hand in hand. I am looking forward to this internship with Linda, this next semester of school, and all the wonderful people I’m going to meet while continuing on this path!

You can follow Kimberly on Twitter @kimberly_ann688 and expect to see her blog posts here on the monthly “Dish from the Literary Agent Intern.” If there are specific topics you’d like her to cover on the blog, do let us know in the comments below.


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