Welcome to my world and beyond...

A collection of snippets of the books I write and, occasionally, my life and the things that inspire my writing...

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Writing: The Race to Tell.

Many was the day, at least five  children rode home with dad. He worked at the Seminary next to the church, beyond which was the convent, which was just up the hill from the Catholic school we all attended.

I was one of those five--actually one of eight, but my three older sisters were already in high school when I started first grade.

Part of that daily ritual was, after arriving home, flinging open the car doors as soon as it's tires had stopped.  We'd race up the cinder covered path, past the spring-house, and then into the house where we each hoped we'd be the first to spy mom.  And more importantly, be the first to tell her  the news of the day.  It didn't matter what it was. If dad had told us that a priest was leaving the seminary, or one of the nuns was leaving, or if the neighbor's cow got out again, or if he got the best deal ever at the Dollar Stretcher (a fruit market), we each had to be the one to tell.

The first ten minutes home was daily mayhem. And mom got at least five versions of the news before she ever heard dad's.

What does that have to do with writing?

Back story told too early and too much.

My latest writing-related revelation.

The practice of writing in medias res... my good blogging and writing buddy, Jay Squires' at Septuagenarian Journey was the first to explain to me, means plunking the reader down into the action.  Then feed them information, a little at a time.  He was commenting on a blog I'd posted, containing the first few pages of a WIP I'd just begun to write.  Problem was, I was opening with back story. A lot of back story.  I was racing to tell.

After Jay's wonderful advice, I went into search and learn mode. Whew.  Nothing less than media res works in my go-to genres Fantasy/scifi/romance.  I needed to slow down--and stop trying to tell it all in the first chapter.

Do we, as writers, get in too big of a hurry to tell all?  Have you read books where the author did that?

Part of it might be the age we live in. Our attention spans might not be what they were a century ago--or even a couple of decades ago.  We need to grab the readers' attention, such them into the middle of mayhem.

Afterward, doing what I always do, I analyzed, and then analyzed some more.   And...I think I've finally discovered why I did that. ~laughing~  I was a kid again, and wanted to be the first to tell. I couldn't wait to tell.   But, it pays to wait.

When exploring in medias res, Wikipedia is a good place to visit,In medias res for starters.

It does bear mentioning; there are genres where it's not quite as critical. But...not many.

I know--"tell".  Yep. That deserves it's own post, as does how all of this relates to planner/pantser.


  1. No wonder you wanted to race- so much competition always! I'm guilty of racing sometimes, but mostly I try to 'show not tell,' can't recall the source of that phrase but it makes a difference. I say it out loud to myself whilst editing, frequently! Sorry I've not been by in a while- blaming being busy but it's just falling into bad habits really- need to rethink my schedules!

    1. Saying it out loud is a very useful writer's technique :-) Lily--don't give it a thought. I feel bad that my trips to your blog have become less and less frequent.

      Better habits--autumn is here. A good goal...

      Thanks for visiting!

  2. I've been over and over my manuscript recently looking for all those bits that seem more tell than show. It's easy to slip into this and you are probably right that we are too keen to get all the good stuff out there too soon. Interesting post, thanks.

    1. Thanks, Suzanne! I am always so amazed at my blindness to my own writing errors. Editors are a wonderful thing. :-)

      Thanks for visiting! :-)