Truly, Madly, Deeply… All things LY

Book Look


We’ve all heard it before, “show, don’t tell.”, but what does that really mean? I know I have struggled a great deal in my own writing with making my descriptions pack a punch that will knock the reader over, if not out. Where do I struggle the most? The dreaded adverb.  

I’m sure you’ve dealt with this before. You’ve fretted over how to get the reader to understand the venom in a lover’s spiteful retort and written something like this:

She stared at him angrily. “I’ve had enough. You and your… Mistress can enjoy our two story house, I’m gone.” She said hatefully.

Did you see them? The two adverbs that take all of the fun out of reading? Angrily and Hatefully. Yes, they get the point across. As a reader you understand her feelings, but you have that knowledge because I as the writer told you, I didn’t show you.

When you’re writing that first draft, pay no mind to these sneaky adverbs. Write, write, write and don’t look back. Freaking write it like you stole it! Stuff a gag in that inner editor, tie him to a chair in the bottom-most basement of your mind palace. Most importantly, write!

Once that first draft is done, and your all petered out from your artistic exertions, take a well-deserved break. Relax. Sip a glass of wine in celebration and pencil in a date to come back later and begin your edit.

When you do come back you can find these instances of adverberly sabotage with a simple tool “Find/Replace”. Most of your top-end editor have it. You can use it to find specific words or formatting and then replace it with something else, or the best trick, you can find it and “highlight” it. That’s what I want you to do with those LY’s. Find each and every one of them and highlight them.

Now what? Now you are going to put that creativity to work. Let’s use the example above. I have two adverbs that are glaring at me to be fixed. The first one is angrily. I could leave it, but there is so many other ways to show you the reader what she is feeling and to ramp up our money maker: conflict.

She stared at him. Her blue eyes sharp daggers that threatened to pierce him to the bone.

There we go, now we are getting somewhere. Now you know she’s not just angry, she’d kill him with a look if she could.

“I’ve had enough. You and your… Mistress can enjoy our two story house, I’m gone.” She said. Tears filled the rims of her eyes. Her body shook from head to toe and she could taste copper as her teeth sank into the soft flesh of her cheek.

Look at that. Now I’ve taken a short sentence and some dialogue and I’ve beefed it up to a couple sentences, added some more conflict and most importantly, I’ve shown you what she is feeling, I haven’t told you.

Why do we show and not tell? Two reasons: suspension of belief and immersion. When we tell the reader what is going on, the reader, smart little cookies that they are, hear the writer. They hear you TELLING them what’s happening. When you SHOW they hear it in their own voice or the one they’ve imagined for the narrator. This keeps the reader engaged, interested and buried deep in your story-trap, right where you want them!

if you get a chance, apply this to some of your older WIPs (Work-In-Progress) and see if you can’t give it some pop! Cheers!


Balance in all things

Who remembers playing on a teeter-totter as a child? Two kids on opposite sides of a plank utilize their weight to hoist the other one up in the air. It was good fun for several minutes, but imagine a life time of going up & down, up & down, up… You get the picture.

Everything in life has it’s opposite. Night has day, summer has winter, happy has sad. When we reach these extremes for any period of time, we want to go to the other. Take the current winter storms in the north and east. People are sick of shoveling snow, roads and schools closed, and cold, most of all the cold. It was beautiful for Christmas, but now they want summer, winter’s opposite.

Our lives swing back and forth every day, as we reach one extreme we move towards it’s opposite and it all boils down to control. As human beings we want, may I dare say, even need to be in control of our lives. When we lose that control, slipping to no control or being controlled, we push back, we fight we strive to take back that control, sometimes at disastrous costs.

The severity and ferocity of that push back is dependent upon the length of time and degree to which we haven’t had control. Think of it like a rubber band. When you pull it back, the moment you let go it snaps back. If you only drew it back a little bit, the recoil isn’t that severe. However, if you draw it all the way back, stretching it to it’s limits, it can be quite painful when released; or worse the entire band can snap catching you off guard.

We have a great deal of controls taught to us from our earliest years. “Sit up straight.” “Mind your manners.” “Don’t say that word.” We become conditioned by these controls to the point that they shape our thoughts, our actions and our lives.

So what can you do about it? After all aren’t some of these controls necessary? When someone cuts us off in traffic and we get the urge to ram our car into their’s it is those ingrained societal controls that keep us from doing so. Just like the ride on that teeter-totter, control can be fun, but within reason. Control makes a friendly game of cards fun for everyone, but when taken too far, it can suck the happiness out of any experience.

When it comes to anything in life, especially control, you have to find the balance. The point where both sides are equal. You can usually recognize this point by the smile on your face. If you don’t have it, look at your life closely, something is being controlled beyond the point of fun.

My secret to getting up, getting through and moving on…

I’m not going to varnish it, I’ve had a lot of ups-and-downs in my life. But then again, who hasn’t, right? We’ve all had setbacks, road blocks, challenges and defeats. Some people even say it is those defeats that make us who we are. I think that’s only half right.

Yes, it’s the “miles that make the man” and “pressure creates diamonds”, but I believe it’s what we do after that is the true testament to our character. Everyone stumbles and falls, but to quote the Tao Te Ching “Fall down seven times, get up eight.” I don’t think it is the struggles that define us, it’s whether we get up, get through and move on.

As I stated, I’ve dealt with a lot of challenges in my life: broken relationships, losses of deeply loved family members and friends, months and years of separation from spouse and children, heartbreaks, infidelity and most recently the end of my career in the Navy just over a year from retirement. So, how do I tackle these? I’ve got a secret, and I’m gonna let you in on it right now.

You’ve heard the psycho-babble of the “Inner Child”. Maybe you buy into it, maybe you don’t. That really doesn’t matter. What matters is that you remember someone. The person I want you to remember is you, you somewhere between 6 and 9 years old. I bet the moment you read that, you instantly envisioned a picture of that little boy or girl; I know I did. He’s 7 years old, dressed in this horrid pale yellow button-up shirt with rhinestone buttons and brown corduroy pants (corduroy, who wears that anymore but hipsters?).

I remember everything about that little boy: who he is, what he loves, what he’s afraid of. That’s what I want you to do, especially when times get hard and things look bleak. Now, all that little boy or girl wants is to be happy, safe and loved, and that’s your job. No one else is responsible for that, but you. When storm clouds roll in, you lose your job, a significant other leaves you, I want you to sit down next to that little boy or girl, put your arms around them and tell them everything is going to be just fine. You’re going to make sure of that. Together, you’re going to get up, get through and move on.