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Show Don’t Tell

October 7th, 2016

the-japanese-lover-blogYesterday was National Poetry Day – if you took part in any way I hope you enjoyed yourself. To mark the event we’ve been offering £25 off our Art of Writing Poetry course and this offer will be available until 16th October.  So if you fancy brushing up your poetry skills, now’s the time to do it.

I live in Rochdale, near Manchester. It doesn’t often get good press. Some parts come very high on the list of most deprived areas in the UK, there was the grooming scandal involving young girls and who could miss the allegations against Cyril Smith the former Liberal MP.

But it’s a town that’s set amidst beautiful  Pennine countryside,  it has some truly outstanding Victorian buildings and it’s really trying to put all that behind it and move on.  One of the many ways it’s doing this is by holding an annual literary festival later in the month.

This year will be its fourth and in that time it’s grown beyond all recognition. There are 30 events planned and well-known names include Joanne Harris, Ann Cleeves, Mark Billingham, John Connolly, Alistair Campbell and Simon Callow. I think the organisers should give themselves a pat on the back for all their hard work – it just goes to show that you don’t have to be Cheltenham or Hay to stage a successful lit fest!

Don’t you find it disappointing when you pick up a book by an author that you used to enjoy and find it lacklustre, to say the least? This happened to me recently with Isabel Allende. It’s a few years since I’ve read any of her books, but I had always considered her a first-class writer based on work like The House of Spirits and Daughter of Fortune.  I’ve just finished reading  The Japanese Lover, (published in 2015) and it’s dreadful. It commits the major sin that we mention in all our fiction courses– it tells instead of showing.  There is page after page of exposition about what the characters are doing, or have done, rather than letting them reveal themselves by their actions and words.

The dialogue is stilted  and they constantly use each other’s names. Do you do that when you’re talking to your husband or friends? I know I don’t. Plus the characters are in most cases two- dimensional and in some cases positively unbelievable.  You might want to read it as part of an exercise on how not to write your novel!

It’s been a while since I’ve had a guest, but next week Sophia Anderson will be giving you some tips on the ultimate toolkit that will help you as a freelance writer. Sophia is a writer who believes that learning something new every day is a must. Who could argue with that?


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