February 18, 2015

Writing Tip: Show, Don't Tell - Trite or True?

The number one rule in fiction writing: show, don't tell. Trite? Maybe. But it's action that draws the reader into your story; the characters, the setting, the details, and action. Narrative keeps us distant.
So when I started reading Anne Tyler's latest (and supposedly her last) book, A Spool of Blue Thread, I was struck when at 8% (according to my Kindle, which would be approximately 30 pages if I were reading the hard cover version), nothing had happened. There was some dialogue, introduction of a number of characters, but no scenes.
The story begins in 1994 with a phone call from a son to his father, announcing that he's gay. That grabbed my interest. But the thread ends there. It goes nowhere. I'm now at 18% and I have no idea if the kid is gay. If he's not, why did he tell his parents that? No clue. And at 18% of the way through the book it's suddenly 2012 (we're moving at the speed of light here!) and the kid's been married (twice, I think) and has a kid of his own. But I don't know much more about him.
I usually give a book 50 pages. If I'm not engaged by then I move on to the next. But I'm beyond the 50 now and haven't given up. Because it's Anne Tyler. This is her 20th book and I have loved so many of them. This isn't one, and that makes me sad. I so wanted to love this.
I can't help but wonder if this book would have gotten published if it wasn't Anne Tyler. And I can't help but wonder why her editor didn't say something. Because it's Anne Tyler, I suppose, and people will buy this book just because her name is on it. Just like I did. And isn't that too bad? If I were an author of Tyler's reputation and caliber and I had made an announcement that this was my last book I'd want it to be my best.
It's premature, I know, but I doubt if she's going to be able to say that.

1 comment:

Arion said...

I usually stay on a book at least for the first 20 or 30 pages. Anyway, I just read your post about Magic in the Moonlight. I also wrote about it here: