Sunday, September 15, 2013

Whispering Really Is Okay

Please don’t shout!!! Hear those exclamation points shrieking at you? Of course you do! Annoying, isn’t it? We read fiction—and just about anything for that matter—for entertainment, information, illumination. But we don’t read so someone can tell us what to feel or think. Nor do we read to feel like a well-meaning but rather bad, stupid dog.

Yet most writers occasionally shout. Maybe we can’t help it. Our images, themes, and observations are that important. And if they are? Implication is the way to convey them. Because when someone shouts, folks stiffen up, cross their arms over their chests, grit their teeth, or flee—not a single response you want to evoke in your readers (or anyone else).

For most writers, the ending elicits the loudest shouting. Naturally. Almost as bad as reaching the end of the journey with your characters, you’re now at the end of your chance to convince readers of—whatever you desperately hope to convince them of. Truth is ambiguous. Love is better the second time around. Men are only physically stronger than women. War is almost never the answer. 

It doesn’t matter what you want to say, whether it’s true, how passionately you believe it, or even how well you communicated it in your novel. Inside a voice whispers, “They won’t get it.” Or, “They’re not convinced. Tell them again.” Or, “You’ve tried to show for three hundred pages. Now it’s time to tell.” Or, “Last chance! Go for it! Don’t lose this last chance!!!!!!!”

Alas, no. If there’s ever a time to whisper and insinuate, it’s the last chapter, page, paragraph, sentence. This isn’t the time, well, to be right. Rather, it’s the time to write well. It isn’t the time to prove your thesis. It’s the time to leave readers with an image—one as fleeting as the last dim colors in the evening sky. But equally memorable.

So no shouting just before “The End.” Also avoid these varieties of shouting:

One-sentence paragraphs.
Explaining why tragedy is truly tragic.
Melodramatizing why tragedy is truly tragic.
Over-used, overwrought words like “anguish,” “yearning,” “smitten,” etc.
Telling what you showed or will soon show.
Exclamation points!!!

Tip: Hoping to convince or inspire? That’s only human. But novels do it with plot.

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