Monday, March 21, 2011

Interjections! Excitement! Emotion!

interjectionsInterjections (Aw!) show excitement (Darn!) or emotion (Hurray!).
They're generally set apart from a sentence by an exclamation point,
Or by a comma when the feeling's not as strong.
  –Schoolhouse Rock

Well, it’s time for a little bit of honesty here. After all the excitement! of getting requests for Steam Palace from agents, the response so far has been less than enthusiastic. Damn!

A couple of the rejections have been nice without any kind of feedback except the “it’s not quite right for me” to the depressing “needs editing, show don’t tell” kind. I’m still waiting to hear back from a few more agents, but I’m getting the sense that it’s not quite “there” yet. Flibbertigibbet!

I had another epiphany last week during during a local talk by Bill Kenower, editor of Author Magazine. He was talking about the “Rules of Writing” (BTW one of his  is, “there are no rules”), and he presented this one:

  • Feel First, Write Second

Which is to say, “write the emotional change(journey) of the character, not the physical change of the scene.” I went, “huh?”  I’d never thought of it that way. I’m a procedural, “this happens then that then he says this etc.” Like a programmer: x=x+1;

Here’s what he said (paraphrasing): “What does it feel like for your POV character to do all these things in a scene? Don’t just report on the rain, let the reader know what the rain feels like.”

I don’t know what happened, but I had a “light bulb” moment. Yes! I’ve been aware of “show don’t tell” for a long time, and really struggled with it (as do many writers) because my mind pictures the activity of the scene as if I’m a faraway observer. I’ve thought about putting a “camera” over a character’s shoulder, in their eyes, above the room, but I now see that maybe all those directions are wrong. Consarnit!

Maybe what I need to do is turn the damn! camera around and point it at my POV character’s heart. And keep it pointed there. Because what happens outside of their heart doesn’t matter. Maybe this is a key piece of “show, don’t tell” (or deep POV).

So I went through a scene and added all kinds of emotive language. The scene now just feels different. It doesn’t read like my writing, and I feel like I’m being hammered with my character’s emotions. The thing I’m worried about is that all this new emotive language is just telling on a new level—telling the reader the emotions. Curses!

So the jury’s still out. I don’t think that this is my only issue with Steam Palace but at least it’s something I can work on.(Reducing word count, scene transitions, suspension of disbelief are some other issues, For the Love of All that is Holy!).

Interjections show excitement or emotion,
Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah... YEA!

Darn! That's the end!


  1. Keep at it Andrew. You know you'll get there. Its a great story concept, with exciting characters and vivid action. The right agent will come along.


  2. Your MS is really good, it will def find a home soon. I missed Bill's Talk for PNWA, was not feeling great that day.

  3. Hi, Andrew! I know what you mean. Feel, sensory detail, show--I love doing that stuff. I tend to get heavy on the emotional side but thin on the setting and character description. What a load to balance!

    ♥.•*¨ Elizabeth ¨*•.♥

  4. I'm signed up for another conference in August, but I'm still hoping that I'll find an agent this round. I think the story itself is really good, it's just a question of finding the right audience.

  5. It was a good talk. Some of the stuff I was like "yeah, yeah, whatevs" but that one point really stuck with me.

  6. It's hard to figure out how much word count to spend on different aspects. If I spend all my words describing things then nothing happens.

  7. I think perhaps "show, don't tell" means not pointing the camera at any part of the POV character, but rather having the character become the camera.

  8. Kind of. It may be a question of which metaphor works for you. ;)

    "Show, don't tell" isn't as much about POV as just how the story is told(shown) in general. If I say "she was frustrated" I'm focusing the POV but to "show" frustration I might say "she dug her nails into her palms".
    The point of this post is to not omit reaction when moods change.
    "She hung up the phone. She made some coffee."
    might not be as effective as
    "She hit 'end' and tossed the phone on the bed, stomped to the kitchen, and threw on a pot of coffee, anticipating a long night ahead."

    Thanks for the comment!

  9. It's not about adding more emotive language but about feeling your character's emotions and then write a scene to show how they feel through their actions and reactions. For instance, if your MC is a teen who's just lost his mom in an accident, you can write (depending on how important this is to the plot) a scene to show how he feels. He's angry and sad... 
    Jack looked down at the cheap pine coffin carrying his mom's broken body. Tis was wrong. His mom shouldn't have died. Father Allan put a comforting hand on his shoulder. "Son,' he began. Jack shook the priest's hand off. Undaunted, the priest continued, "I know it's hard for you to accept that this God's will...," 
    "What the f' do you know? You just met me!"     
    This isn't good and it would have to be developed further but this is the way to show so the reader can get an idea of the turmoil going inside the character's heart. 
    Telling would be something like: Jack felt his heart being ripped into tiny pieces  as he looked down at the cheap pine coffin carrying his mom's broken body. Tears started to well up but he held them back. He wasn't going to cry. He was too angry for that. The bastard drunk who took her life... 

  10. Very good point and illustration.
    I'm not sure external actions/reactions are sufficient, I think the internal reactions are important too. Maybe it depends on the style of the story.
    But I'm always looking for better ways to show these things. Thanks for the comment!

  11. Good post about interjections.


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