The Best Writing Advice I Ever Heard: Read 100 Books

In all the writer’s workshops and classes I’ve attended, in all the conversations I’ve had with successful writers, the best piece of writing advice anyone has ever given me, was this:

READ 100 books in whatever genre you wish to write in.

Really… 100.

Only after doing so, did I really understand why the author had said that.

All of the great artists of history have at least one thing in common: They first studied the masters, before becoming masters themselves.

And by “studied,” I do not mean “glanced at” or “looked at for a long time.” I mean “studied” – they examined how the artist used colors, how the brushstrokes were done, how faces were drawn, the “shape” of the central image, the materials used to create the image, etc.

If you want to truly excel at writing, and if you want to be a successful paid author whose work is read and enjoyed by people outside of your own family, your best path is to read and study the masters of your craft.

Do more than merely read them. Analyze and study how the writer created the work. Write down your analyses so you can review and compare them later. To use an analogy from the art world again… Look at the “brushstrokes,” and think analytically about the “overall image.”

Some of the things to look for while reading analytically include:

  • (Sub-)Genre: Which genre or sub-genre is the story? How is this (sub-)genre different from others that are similar to it? What basic genre elements are present? What is the order/pacing of those elements?
  • “The Numbers”: How many pages, chapters (include if there there is any epilogue/prologue), estimated number of words (letters across a page, multiplied times lines of text, divide that by five, multiply this times number of pages of text), illustrations, etc.?

screenshot_20200901-170600_write now44925256527528770..jpg

  • What POV was used? If omniscient, how much omniscience is the reader allowed to experience? If first- or second-person, how does the author show what takes place out of sight of the narrator? Is only one POV used throughout?
  • Characters:
    • How many characters are there (how many major characters, how many minor ones)?
    • How are they distinguished from one another?
    • What are their archetypes?
    • If characters are cultural or literary stereotypes, is it for comedic effect or another reason?
    • How they are described (physically and psychologically) and brought to life (how much detail is given for each of them, what foods they eat, their hobbies, etc)?
    • How are “good” characters made more/less “good” and likable vs. “bad guy” character?
    • How much time is spent describing characters/how much time are they “on screen/on stage” for the reader?
    • What kind of relationships they have with/to other characters?
    • What kind of lifestyles they live, what jobs they have?
    • What pets they have, if any, and how they relate to their pets (also: are the pets used to symbolize the characters’ traits in any way)?
    • Are there any aspects of the writing outside of the characters that are used to symbolize them and/or their character traits (such as a family crest with a snake for an evil character, a necklace with a cross for a religious character, a character who is destined to die pulls an ace of spades from a card deck, a painting on the character’s home of a person famous for being good/evil, etc)?

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  • Scenes and Settings: What kind of setting is the story, how it is described, why that setting is better for the story than others might be, number of settings used, etc.
  • Plot:
    • What major plot points happen and when do they happen?
    • What plot devices are used (when, how introduced, what purpose for them…)?
    • When is each character and each plot device introduced in the plot arc?
    • How does each chapter begin & end (tone, is the reader left hanging mid-action, etc.)?
  • Statements/Theme: What is the theme of the story? Does the story make any social or other kinds of statement – i.e., does it have a moral or a lesson taught? (This is not necessary in every kind of story, but some sub-genres do have this as one of the unwritten rules of their stories.)
  • Tone:
    • How does the author create and maintain a mood: suspense, humor, reader interest, mystery, romance, etc?
    • How much sex/violence/mature material is used (if any)?
    • What kind of words & language are used (long/short sentences, little/lots of punctuation, colorful/plain words & terminology, idioms, colloquialisms, etc)?
    • How is comedy & humor used (if at all) in a non-humorous story, romance in a non-romantic story, and so on?
  • Show vs Tell: How does the author show the reader things without saying them straight out? For example, instead of saying “Bob was scared”, the author should say how Bob was trembling, breathing heavily, wide-eyed, etc. Instead of saying “the forest was scary,” the author should show that wind in the trees whispering strangely, branches seeming to grab for people, wolves howling, etc.

More on “Show vs Tell”:
https://annethewriter33.wordpress.com/2017/09/11/show-dont-tell-in-your-writing/


  • What symbolism & foreshadowing, if any, is used? How, where, when? Is it symbolic or obvious?
  • Backstory/Descriptions: Most importantly, how does the author work descriptions and backstory without using obvious exposition and/or leaving the reader feel like they are being lectured at, and/or feeling like the story was rudely interrupted by the other information? Your writing should be smooth and flow comfortably. How do other authors achieve this?

For the first few dozen books, I took notes on everything. But I quickly discovered that it was impossible to analyze for ALL of these aspects at the same time. So I tried focusing on only a few of these criteria at a time. (This made it all the more important to read a full 100 books, as it turned out.) Reading all those books not only taught me to look for one of these criteria at a time, it taught me to see many of them as I read through books now. Reading so many of one genre also taught me that there is a formula for my intended genre, and that there can be SUB-genres within that overall classification, with their own specific requirements and rules.

For example, in most “Cozy Tea Mysteries,” the killer or villain of the book must appear anywhere by the end of the first three chapters, or at least have their name mentioned multiple times by that same point in the story. (Similarly, the killer in many hour-long “whodunit” TV crime shows tends to appear in the first ten minutes of the episode.) Most of the ones I read were told in the First Person POV, and a large number of them had female amateur detectives. The murder(s) tended to take place “off stage,” and gory & uncomfortable details were rarely used. There was almost never any sex scenes or excessive profanity. These criteria were not present every time, but they did tend to happen more often than not.

Some of these ideas were obvious by the time I was done with Book 20, but others didn’t become clear until I had finished Book 99.

So, yes… 100 books is a lot, but there’s a very good reason for the large number.

RECOMMENDED LINKS OF INTEREST

How to Analyze a Novel
https://courses.lumenlearning.com/introliterature/chapter/how-to-analyze-a-novel/

Analyzing Novels and Short Stories
https://writingcenter.tamu.edu/Students/Writing-Speaking-Guides/Alphabetical-List-of-Guides/Academic-Writing/Analysis/Analyzing-Novels-Short-Stories

How to Critically Analyze a Book
https://human.libretexts.org/Bookshelves/Literature_and_Literacy/Writing_and_Critical_Thinking_Through_Literature_(Ringo_and_Kashyap)/04%3A_About_Fiction-_Short_Stories_and_the_Novel/4.05%3A_How_to_Analyze_Fiction-_Elements_of_Literature

9 Elements You’ll Find in Every Story
https://blog.prepscholar.com/literary-elements-list-examples

Analyzing Literature
http://www.surfturk.com/advancedcomp/analyzeliteratureguide.html

How to Analyze Fiction
https://davehood59.wordpress.com/2010/01/28/how-to-analyze-fiction//

iWriterly Channel on YouTube
https://www.youtube.com/c/iWriterly

“Read Like a Writer”
https://youtu.be/E2NNupsc73Y

https://youtu.be/TTl2peOPuQk

https://youtu.be/ukoJ3efQmBg

If you enjoyed this blog, please remember to “Like” it (click on the star below) and to “Like” any social media posts/comments where you saw this link. And don’t forget to “Follow” me here on WordPress, for more helpful and concise writing tips. Your positive feedback helps me to help more people online.

Thank you!

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Submitting Your Work and Dealing with Rejection

Rejection happens… a lot.

It should happen a lot, if you’re doing it right.

If your manuscript hasn’t been rejected by at least a dozen publishers (preferably more), you haven’t tried hard enough yet.

KEEP SUBMITTING.

Remember, “Gone With The Wind” was rejected hundreds of times, before it finally found its way to print. Most authors deal with countless rejections.

The successful ones keep trying.

It’s Not About You

Rejection is not a personal slam against you or your work. Sometimes the manuscript is not a good fit for the publisher. Sometimes you did not present yourself as a professional author, but instead seemed careless or rude in your query letter. Other times the publisher just does not have the funds & staff at that time to take on another title for publication.

Rejection happens for a lot of reasons, many of them beyond your control. But there are lots of trade publishers out there, willing– and hungry– to read your submissions, and (yes) pay you to publish your work.

KEEP SUBMITTING.

Submission Guidelines

Before you do anything else, be sure to look at the publisher’s “Submission Guidelines.” 

This should tell you:

  • The contact name for the person to whom you should address your query letter
  • What to include and not include in your submission (such as: samples of your work, number of chapters, SASE, etc.)
  • If they are accepting submissions via email, or only through agents, or not accepting from first-time authors, or are open to new authors, or what file format to send any electronic submissions, etc. 
  • The genre(s) that their imprint publishes, and what kind of books/articles they are looking for

If you have any questions, be sure to call and get answers. Editors would much rather have you make a quick call to them, than to spend time going through a manuscript that doesn’t fit their needs and mail out a rejection.

SASE is an abbreviation for a “Self-Addressed Stamped Envelope.” You should have sufficient postage already on the envelope for them to return your manuscript to you. Almost every submission that’s mailed via postal service should have an SASE included, unless their Submission Guidelines specify that they do not return manuscripts.

Be sure to look over the list of books they’ve previously published. If your book subject/genre is too different from their usual fare, they will not publish your book.

If they tend to publish mostly Cozy Tea Mysteries and your book is a Mystery Thriller, then there is a good chance they will publish it. But if you submit a Vampire Romance to an Evangelical Christian Theology/Non-Fiction imprint, don’t expect them to make an exception for your book, no matter how good your story is. 

If an imprint publishes a lot of Zombie/Vampire stories, then there’s a very good chance they will accept your Vampire Romance. But if they only publish Historical Mysteries, then they aren’t going to accept your Vampire Romance story.

You can find the publisher’s most updated Submission Guidelines on their website. 

You can also find Submission Guidelines for a lot of publishers in the most recent copy of a Writer’s Market book (link here), where you can browse and find a publisher that fits your book. (If you find a listing in any Writer’s Market, be sure to call to verify that the Submissions Editor is the same as the one listed in the book. Editorial jobs have a lot of turnover, so the name might easily be different than the one in the book.) Some types of publishers have specialty writer’s markets, such as Literary Agents, Christian publishers, artists, etc.

As always, watch out for scammers pretending to be legitimate publishers! Check for their listing in reputable directories like Writer’s Market. Also search the internet with their name and the word “scam” to find out more about them, and to find out if they’re legitimate.

Query Letters

A good query letter sounds professional.

Ask yourself when reading over your query letter, and before sending it out: “Would I hire this writer for a full-time job if this letter showed up on my desk?”

They don’t need to hear about your childhood traumas, or why you became a writer, or how you’ve been writing this book since you were ten years old. Don’t give them a list of your favorite books to read– they don’t care, and it doesn’t sound professional. And don’t tell them how much their company will want to publish your book– they can judge for themselves if your book fits their interests, thank you.

NEVER address it to “Dear Sir or Madam” or anything equally generic. It’s rude. If you didn’t take the time to call or check the Submission Guidelines and find out their name, they know you won’t take the time to read any instructions & edits that they later send you if they accept your book. If you thought checking their name was a waste of your time, then they’ll think reading your submission is a waste of THEIR time. “Buh-bye!”

Also, don’t tell them about books you might have self-published– UNLESS you also have sales for those books. Any schmuck can post a piece of unedited crap to the internet and say they’re “self-published.” Any idiot can pay a Vanity Press to put their words in print. 

They want to hear if you SOLD your work. They want to know if it was any GOOD.

Along the same vein, if you’ve never had an editor look over your self-published book AND have not received overall positive reviews from readers, then avoid even mentioning self-published work– really. You don’t want a Submissions Editor to see your mistakes and poor reviews– or lack of any feedback whatsoever.

Think of it this way, if you had lousy employee reviews from a former boss and/or poor references from that company, you would try to downplay them on your resume– maybe even omit them altogether. But if you got stellar reviews, then you would be sure to mention them to any potential employer.

The same is true for query letters. Avoid bragging about things that would not impress an editor looking to “hire” you.

On the flip side, having a full book under your belt and already completely written, shows a publisher that you are able to finish a book if they accept your “first-few-chapters” submission. It demonstrates that you can complete the task they’re taking you on for. It also tells them that you will have at least some understanding about the publishing process and not make unrealistic demands along the way. 

Balance out the pros and cons of discussing your previous self-publishing experience, and include any information carefully. 

The editor looking at your query is looking to “hire you for a book project.* They want to “hire” a professional who does great work, and not someone whose work will need constant checking and correcting.

They also don’t want to hire someone who refuses to MAKE corrections. Be sure to avoid phrases that make you sound like you “don’t need an editor” (you will) or sound like your book is “perfect as is” (it’s not). No editor wants to work with an author who argues about every comma, and/or who refuses to reword even the most incomprehensible of sentences, simply because that author thinks their work is “perfect” as is. 

Editors don’t expect you to follow every change they mark up without question. But they do expect you to make at least most of their markups without a huge fight over each one. 

So What DO You Put in a Query Letter?

Just give them a HOOK to catch their attention, a SHORT SUMMARY of your book/story/article, and show them a short paragraph description of your writing EXPERIENCE. Then thank the editor for their time and give your contact information. 

Basically, that’s it.

Polish it up and personalize it for the editor and publisher you’re sending it to. Make the editor think that you are talking to them specifically, and not sending out a form letter.

The following links provide some great information about query letters and examples of successful ones. Be sure to look them over before writing your query.

NY Book Editors: “How to Write a Query Letter”
https://nybookeditors.com/2015/12/how-to-write-a-darn-good-query-letter/

Writer’s Digest: “10 Dos and Don’ts of Writing a Query Letter”
https://www.writersdigest.com/getting-published/the-10-dos-and-donts-of-writing-a-query-letter

Reedsy: “How to Write a Query Letter”
https://blog.reedsy.com/guide/how-to-write-a-query-letter/ 

It’s Worth Repeating…

Just remember that you will get rejections. Expect them. Plan for them.

I recall one successful full-time author, who told other writers that he sends out at least 10-25 query letters a week for magazine articles & short stories, and expects to only get one or two of those accepted. He also spends time every week working on his latest book, and pitching his previous book. By diversifying and keeping himself on lots of desks at once, he keeps himself gainfully employed.

To be a profitable, full-time author, rejection slips should be a normal part of your business. Just remind yourself that they are not about you. They are about your query & manuscript, and how well your book fits with the company you’re submitting it to.

If you enjoyed this blog, please remember to “Like” it (click on the star below) and to “Like” any social media posts/comments where you saw this link. And don’t forget to “Follow” me here on WordPress, for more helpful and concise writing tips. Your positive feedback helps me to help more people online.

Thank you!

“A Skeleton in the Closet: A Genealogy Mystery” Chapters 1 & 2

CHAPTER 1

At the sound of something brushing gently against my apartment door, I was terrified.

It was not the kind of fear you get when you’re on a roller coaster, where the blood rushes through your veins and clears out your head.

It was that deep, gnawing, unending fear that kicked me in the stomach and made me dread the phone ringing and picking up the mail. I had long since been screening calls and had told all my friends to talk to the machine. The bill collectors from the credit card companies would never leave messages, and just hung up.

But now I was terrified because I knew what that sound meant.

My landlord had left a message on my answering machine just a few minutes earlier.

I knew.

I knew that the scratching and movement on the other side was an eviction notice being taped on my door.

I knew that I had run out of time, and I knew I had only a few more weeks to come up with a sum of money that no temp job would ever pay.

I knew I couldn’t ask my parents to take me in any longer. They had settled in to their new retirement community, and were so crammed for space that their walk-in closet was now their computer-room-slash-home-office. I had only once in my life used the option of living with my parents, and only now realized how wonderful it had been to have that available to me.

My breath was instinctively held. I released it slowly and quietly, then waited and listened to be sure the hall was empty, and that my landlord had left the stairwell.

Tears started to form in my eyes, and I scolded myself.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m no coward. I knew I was one of countless people who had been in this situation before, so I had nothing to really be ashamed of.

But the more my mind told me not to be upset, the more a few tears fell down my cheeks.

As I pulled the notice from the door, I took care to close it behind me as quietly as possible. I still didn’t want to face my landlord right then.

I fell down and dropped onto the couch. There was no real reason to read the notice, but I opened it automatically, and unfolded the crinkled corners. Sobs started out of me, and I dropped the papers to the floor.

I looked at the chair on the other side of the room, at the brand new set of bagpipes sitting in their case. I had ordered them back before my former company’s mass-layoff, and had waited for almost three months before they arrived. Then it had been several more months before I could play them with any skill at all. I had fought to find practice time in my crazy work schedule, and was happy to have found a quiet spot down the road from my old office building where I could run off at lunchtime and play without disturbing anyone.

That, as they say, was then.

Now I looked at them and saw a valuable asset that could be sold to one of the other students in my bagpipe band, and easily pay for more than a month’s rent and groceries.

All that work, all that time, for nothing.

Now, even though I felt like I was on the verge of being voted into the band as a full playing member, I would have to give it all up and wait. Wait until I had another job, wait another year or more until I saved up money to buy another set (which would by then surely cost $1,000 more), and wait until I had learned the band’s new playlist requirements for membership audition (these would certainly have changed by that time, too).

Realistically, if I sold them now, I would probably be giving up bagpiping for several years, maybe forever.

Silently, from behind the tears, my thoughts turned into a prayer.

I know we haven’t talked in a long time God, but if You can do anything, I could really use some help here. I don’t know what to do or what I’m supposed to do. I don’t know what You want me to do. I’ve always thought You must have a plan for me, but I could sure use a hint right now what it is.

I didn’t expect an answer right away. After all, everyone always says that God doesn’t work like that.

Perhaps it was because I was so caught up in the sound of my own crying that I didn’t hear the first few rings of the phone. It must have rung, because the machine was answering.

“Veronica, if you’re there, pick up. It’s me, Daisy.”

Quickly, I wiped the tears from my eyes and grabbed a tissue to wipe my nose. During my last (much shorter) encounter with the unemployment line, Daisy had thrown some freelance work my way, and she never said “pick up” unless it was urgent. Thankfully, while I was working to disguise the sniffling and hoarse voice that would have been a dead giveaway to the tears, Daisy kept talking to my machine.

“I’ve found something for you that could bring some money in. I don’t know how much, but it’s something right now, and I think you’d be perfect for this…“

Finally feeling prepared to pick up the phone, I answered. “Sorry, Daisy. I’m here. It just took me a minute to find the cordless phone.”

As soon as I heard my own voice, I knew that I still sounded nasal and stuffy, and my gravelly voice gave away that I had been crying.

“You okay?” Daisy asked.

“I’m fine. I was just watching a good movie.”

Either Daisy believed the fib, or was too much of a friend to pursue the subject, and let it drop.

“Well, I’ve got this old friend of mine from my DJ days in St. Louis. She’s a nurse now and lives in Montana, and she needs some genealogy and local historical research done. I know you helped me out with that before, so I thought you could make some money doing the same thing for her. I googled it, and professional genealogists make some good money.”

“Daisy, I don’t have the certifications for high pay. I’m just an amateur.”

“She doesn’t care. She was impressed by my description of your work, and wants you. She’s willing to pay pretty well, too – now that she inherited some money from her Grandfather.”

I stood silently for a moment, unsure of things. God doesn’t work this fast, does He?

“You still there?” asked Daisy.

“Oh… yeah. I’m here.”

“Well, it would involve some travel, but you would get reimbursed pretty quickly. I don’t know if your finances are up to it right now, but I figured I had to at least throw it your way. It’s a little weird, but after going to that Star Trek convention with you, I know you’re fairly comfortable with weird.”

“How do you mean, ‘weird’?”

“Well, my friend Rose’s Grandfather passed away a few months ago, and she was going through his things to figure out what to do with them, and found a wooden chest in the closet. Inside the chest was a human skeleton.”

“And in what way does this… very interesting situation lend itself to genealogy?” I asked.

“Well, the police originally thought the skeleton was one of a pair of missing hikers from way back when, but now they’re saying it might be one of Rose’s relatives.”

“So she’s from a rather dysfunctional family, is that it?”

“No. That’s just it – from everything I’ve ever known about her, Rose’s family is kind of like one of those 1950’s Leave it to Beaver types. I can’t imagine her Grandfather living with a dead body in his closet.”

“Well, I have to admit,” I said, “this certainly ranks high on the weirdness scale.”

Daisy gave a mild laugh. “Oh, yeah! Anyway, they need to have more information on her family tree for the DNA identification process. And Rose wants to find out more about her family’s relationship to this missing hikers thing. Even though the police say it’s not possible, Rose is sure it’s related somehow.”

“But the police must have reasons for ruling that out already, mustn’t they?”

“Maybe, but Rose and I aren’t very confident in their work. We both think they’re typical small-town cops who are stumbling around on a case that’s too big for them.”

After a pause, Daisy continued. “So, what do you say? A week or two of paid travel to the lovely wide-open state of Montana, with all expenses paid?”

“We-e-ell…” I walked over to the couch, and picked up the eviction notice. It gave me four weeks to find the money. Uncertainly, I answered, “I’d have to get paid before the first of next month.”

“Done.” Daisy was obviously sure enough of the situation to answer so firmly. I was feeling better about the job.

Later, as I hung up the phone, my confidence slipped away. This was more of a job for a professional private investigator, and I’m just an amateur genealogist. My stomach knotted up. Only my faith that this was God sending something my way, kept me from picking up the phone to call Daisy and back out of the job.

Even though Daisy had told me to call right away, I took a few minutes to compose myself a bit more so could be sure that my voice no longer showed hints of my previous tears. I also had to spend some time online researching how much genealogists get paid.

The amount shocked and inspired me. The professional’s rate was very tempting, especially in light of my finances, but I was determined to be honest and charge the lady an amateur’s rate.

The number Daisy gave me was the hospital where Rose worked. After several minutes of being caught in long-distance voicemail Hell (during which I futilely said “human being please”, and pressed “1” and “2” more times than I could count), I finally got through the corporate communications barrier to speak to a human being. Several more minutes of being kept on hold passed.

Finally, Rose Allendale herself came on the line.

Rose was very nice when I apologized for calling her at work, and insisted on talking about the case in spite of the numerous interruptions obviously caused by people walking up to her desk. Before the conversation ended, I had gotten down most of the available facts.

The “missing hiker thing”, as Daisy had referred to it, involved a missing newlywed couple who had been hiking in a forest preserve in the late 1920s. Just before they had disappeared, Rose’s Grandfather, Emory Allendale, had taken their photograph. At the time, he was working as a nature photographer for the federal government. Later, the hikers’ campsite was discovered with everything intact and no evidence for either of them. Rewards had been offered and search parties sent out, but no trace of either one was ever found.

Recently, Rose’s Grandfather had passed on. He had lived most of his adult life in a small house in Bears Falls, Montana, near where the hikers had gone missing, and a human skeleton had been found hidden in a trunk he owned. The police had told her that the skeleton was a male, based on some of the bones. The newspapers had also said that there appeared to be a gunshot wound in the skull, but not trace of an exit wound for the bullet, and no bullet was found in the skull or in the trunk. Since no one else had been reported missing in that part of the country before, police were theorizing that this was half of the missing hiker pair, and that Emory had shot him. They were busy x-raying, sonar-scanning, dog-sniffing, and digging up much of the ground around Emory’s old home in search of the woman’s remains, in hopes of finding her, too.

Rose, however, didn’t think her Grandfather had killed anyone or that the police would find any other remains. She was convinced that someone had somehow put the trunk there after her Grandfather died. She thought it would have to have been done during the time when she had been going through his possessions, wrapping up heirlooms and donating anything no one else in the family said they wanted.

Rose also said that she remembered hearing her Grandfather once say that he had never fired a gun in his life. It was just a couple of years ago, and she could think of no reason why he would have lied at the time about that. Rose wanted to prove her Grandfather’s innocence, but felt the police were too set on their theory of the events to consider hers, and Rose couldn’t shake the feeling that they were hiding something from her.

Even if it cost her all her savings and even if it wasn’t what she wanted to hear, Rose said, she wanted to know the real truth. She was launching her own investigation, because she had to know if her Grandfather had killed anyone, and not spend the rest of her life wondering if the police had just rushed to conclusions.

Since I had come recommended by a friend, Rose offered to pay whatever the fee was, including any travel expenses that might be incurred. She wanted to have me find out as much information as I could about the missing couple, and also to work with the police and forensics people to verify the man’s identity and to get as much historical information as possible about the case.

When I tried to assure her that travel might not be necessary (most of my Genealogy was done online), Rose was adamant that she preferred me to be nearby during the investigation, and that she was willing to pay for any travel expenses. In spite of my persistent reminders that I was not a detective, she was insistent that Daisy had given me the perfect references.

Since this was possibly a career-making case, and was far better than the miniscule amount on my unemployment check, I agreed to spend a couple of weeks on-site, but insisted that I would need to take at least a day to get myself up to speed on the case and do any preliminary research on the missing couple’s descendants.

I always hate talking money when I freelance, so the next few minutes of discussion felt awkward. Still, she agreed pretty quickly to my fee, and even insisted on paying a higher rate. She was determined enough that I was concerned my protestations would soon become impolite. We agreed to meet up at her home in two more days.

Energized and wanting to get all the facts straight and written down, before I forgot any of my conversation with her, I hopped on the computer and started Googling and typing.

It didn’t take long to learn more about the case. The basic facts were posted in several web-sites that showed up after only a quick “Google” search. Frustratingly, there was a book listed on Amazon.com about the case that had yet to be published, but no publication date was listed; this usually meant that it would not be released for some months yet.

After printing out a few web pages that seemed rather promising at first glance, I did some quick checking on Ancestry.com to get myself started on the descendants.

Thankfully, the missing couple had an unusual last name and there would be fewer “hits” to sort through. George and Betty Darmok hadn’t had any children, but George did have had one sister, according to news stories. The police were hoping to use mitochondrial DNA to identify the skeleton. If the sister was still living or had any daughters of her own, the “X” chromosome in the male skeleton could be matched up to the “X” chromosome in the living female relatives, since “X” chromosomes are passed down through the female line.

Because the police were also looking for George Darmok’s relatives, I decided to start by giving the police a call and trying to share information.

I guessed that Rose might have made her disapproval of the police department known and that there might be bitter feelings about the case, but Rose had also said that one of the officers was more open and helpful than the rest, so I decided to call him before leaving for Montana.

“We already have people working on the genealogy, Miss Heldin,” Officer Parker said. “I don’t think I understand what you’re trying to accomplish.”

As inoffensively as I could, I tried to re-state her client’s position. “Rose Allendale is paying me to look into it. She wants to have another pair of eyes looking at the missing man’s family tree and at the original case itself.”

“I can understand that,” said Officer Parker. “It doesn’t hurt to have another investigator looking at the facts, and I certainly don’t mind sharing my information, but I don’t quite understand what a genealogist is doing investigating this.”

“I was referred by a friend of a friend,” I said. “My expertise is in comparatively recent historical research in the United States, especially the eras between the Civil War and the second World War. I’m more than just a record-chaser, I’m also a historian, and I like to put a person’s life into a historical perspective. Besides, I’ve already voiced my own doubts about my duties to my client, but she seems rather set on it.”

Officer Parker laughed lightly. “Well, Rose certainly is a bit quick to jump on things. I don’t mind, though. She has a certain way about her that makes her easily forgiven… Well, Miss Heldin, don’t expect to find any corrupt cops planting evidence or anything. Our department was one of less than a dozen in the entire country to earn a Certification of Integrity.”

“Oh, that’s certainly not why I’m working on this, Officer Parker! I’m only hoping to add another pair of eyes and approach the topic from a different angle. Hopefully, I’ll find something your people don’t. If there’s one thing I’ve found to be true of genealogy, it’s that more people working on the same problem can only help.”

“In police work, sometimes too many cooks in the kitchen can spoil the broth, ma’am.” His words were harsh, but his manner was too good-natured for me to take offense. “I simply want you to understand that I am going to share any information with you that I am able to, but I won’t be able to divulge every aspect of the case. Some things have to be kept quiet in order to do better police work. I also want to make it clear that we’re not a library you can keep coming back to. We may be a small town by your Chicago standards, but wedo have other work and I don’t want your investigation to take over our offices.”

“Oh, I certainly understand, Officer, and I certainly don’t want to make a pest of myself at all. If you’ll just help me hook up with whoever is doing your background research, I’ll be glad to get out of your hair.”

“They’re already done with the research on this case and they’ve moved on to another one, but I’ll be glad to fax you copies of what that investigator gave me.”

“Oh…done so soon?” I asked. “I thought that the skeleton was found less than a week ago.”

“Yes, but they apparently didn’t have to look hard for a relative. The story is famous enough that a lot of reporters and authors did that for us long ago.”

“Ah, I see.” I was glad to hear that there was ample literature somewhere on the story and that someone still had copies of some of it. It also meant I would be spending a lot of time researching while en route, however. “Well, I certainly do appreciate your help, Officer Parker. If you’ve got a pen I’ll give you my fax number.”

CHAPTER 2

The tiny town of Bears Falls, where Emory Allendale had lived and died, was nowhere near an airport, so I was left with the choice of driving or taking a train.

Driving was pretty much out of the question. My car was already near the end of its life, and I was sure driving it all the way from my suburban Chicago home to Rose’s home in Montana would be too much, even for my antique Nissan “Rice-Burner.”

Although Rose had made it clear that car rental was an option, I realized that driving would substantially cut down my reading time and ability to work out the basics of the case, so mass-transit seemed to be the preferred choice.

The train was fine by me, anyway, since the new post-9/11 security measures made airline travel too time-consuming and aggravating for my tastes.

Online travel sites quickly determined that the best method of getting there without spending too many hours on a bus or too much money up front, involved taking a train most of the way, then renting a car. There was an Amtrak station within spitting distance of my destination, and I estimated that just the cost of repeatedly filling up the gas tank and spending only one night in a motel would make the train ticket and car rental well worth it.

I tried to avoid enjoying the beautiful scenery that kept popping up outside the window as the train lolled its way through the pleasant Midwestern landscape, and concentrate on my reading and research.

I started with Officer Parker’s files, my notes from my conversation with Rose, and my online search printouts, since they were the quickest and most condensed version of the various facts and didn’t require an internet connection.

On June 17, 1928, a newlywed couple named George and Betty Darmok disappeared. George had been 21 at the time, and Betty 17 years old. The couple had previously told various friends that they wanted to spend a month camping out and hiking in the beautiful preserves and forests of what was now called Kootenai National Park.

Only a few days after they began their hike, they returned back to the Great House that acted as a combination general store, restaurant, and hotel for the many tourists of the day. Most were not as nature-loving as the young couple, and would only stay long enough to see the unusual rock formations near the Great House, but some would brave an overnight or more in the nearby camping area.

The pair stocked up on some supplies, and George was overheard at the cash register insisting that various items other hikers assured them were necessary, would be a waste of money and he refused to buy any of them. While in the Great House, they had their photograph taken by a young Emory Allendale, Rose’s Grandfather, who was there taking photographs of the park. It was the last known verified sighting of the pair, and young Mr. Allendale was able to precisely note the time of day in a later newspaper interview, because he had not yet made his long trek to the creek to develop his film in the water, and the sun was about to go down. Like others who overheard the couple talking, Mr. Allendale was surprised at George’s insistence that they would head out to hike more that evening, in spite of the late hour.

The couple’s absence was first noted the next day, when a Trail Officer came across their campsite not far from the Great House. It was eerie, he claimed, and felt the way a ghost town must feel. Coffee had been set over a fire and the pot was almost burnt dry from being left on too long. Breakfast was still on two plates, half-eaten. Clothing and personal items were set out as if someone would be returning any moment to start their day. As much as he walked around the site and called out, no one answered. He soon realized that shoeprints led to a nearby stream, but did not return back toward the campsite.

The Trail Officer quickly made his way to the Great House and sounded the alarm. Police were called, search teams organized, but not one single clue as to what happened to the couple ever surfaced.

In the years since, a couple of people claimed to be Betty or George, including one lady who was hiking the trail with a tour group. After hearing the story of the missing couple, she calmly stated that she was Betty Darmok, and that she had killed her husband and ran off and assumed a new identity. Although everyone in the tour group agreed that this woman existed and had actually said all this, she disappeared immediately after returning to the Great House and was never identified or heard from again.

At the time the couple disappeared, one newspaper reported that George Darmok had a married sister named Helen Gorn who lived in Utah. Helen was quoted in the papers as saying that her brother had “a bit of an Irish temper” when drunk, and she hoped “he hasn’t gone and done anything stupid.”

Many years after the hikers’ disappearance, Helen’s daughter came forward. Apparently, Helen and her husband Oliver had separated years before, and Oliver had taken their daughter Rebecca with him. Also, he had apparently passed on at some point before his wife’s death. Rebecca then went to court to have George declared legally dead, and be named the recipient of George Darmok’s estate. This estate was not much, and consisted only of some “small furniture” and what was described in one newspaper article as “personal items and family heirlooms of small value.” Copies of marriage and Social Security records filed some years later indicated that Rebecca Gorn was now to be found under the name Rebecca Astenbaum, and that she lived in Libby, Montana, very near Kootenai National Park.

The abundance of newspaper information certainly explained why the police felt so comfortable with their prospective mitochondrial DNA. Still, I felt like I should be more professional about my research. I remembered another Genealogist (it was my mother, actually) saying that a good Genealogist always tries to get at least two reliable sources for every piece of information before believing it to be a fact. While the newspaper articles were good sources, there was only one article in the file about Rebecca, and the other documents about her were all about her adult life. There was no other verification that she was a blood relative of George Darmok, or that Helen Gorn ever had any children. Actually, other than that one newspaper article, there was no other verification in the police files that Helen was even George’s sister.

I was a little irritated. If I did pursue this line of inquiry, Vital Records Departments invariably took at least 10 days on a “rush” job, and those usually cost a lot more to get. Still, if Rose Allendale was willing to pay the extra fee, it might be possible. I felt bad about asking her to pay money for double-checking what would seem to be fairly well-established to most people.

Also, the fact that Helen was quoted in the one article as saying that George had a temper was something Rose would probably want to hear. If nothing else, it gave strength to her theory that her Grandfather didn’t kill the couple, and left open the possibility that the husband had killed the wife, then either killed himself or went into hiding.

According to the recent information on her, Rebecca Astenbaum now owned a newspaper called the “Kootenai Gazette,” which she had purchased with her entire inheritance. That would make her simple enough to find and contact.

I considered the Utah angle. If Helen had really lived in Utah, she might actually have been Mormon. Especially if any of her children were Mormon, someone in her family would have some information on her family tree available online with the Latter Day Saints (or “LDS”) databases.

I was getting a bit irritated at myself for having agreed to leave home to do on-site research so soon after starting on the case. I was sure that I would have a dozen more possibilities I would want to look up online before I got off the train.

And then there were a couple of other details that troubled me. The only official government documents in all of the papers Officer Parker had faxed over were the missing couple’s birth certificates and marriage license. There were no court papers declaring them dead. But most troubling of all was the dates stamped by the various county clerks on all of the official original copies, although barely legible after being copied and faxed, still unquestionably showed them all to have been requested at least three years ago. Other records in the police files also seemed to indicate someone had been looking into this “Cold Case” for some time; from the name on the “Requestor” line of at least three of the different documents, it looked like that someone was named “Enkel.”

Even though this might all be completely innocent, my instincts told me otherwise.

The more I thought about it, the more I felt like there were a lot of areas the police had left unchecked and questions that were still unanswered, and I felt less guilty about having to charge money for my research expenses.


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Genre: Writing “Surprise Soup”

Every genre has a formula. Many writers pride themselves on breaking formula, but are later disappointed that not many people seemed to like their changes. Those writers who don’t understand why, need to understand that consumers don’t like to buy “Soup Surprise.”

To explain…

Imagine you have the biggest craving for chocolate cake. And not just any cake, either—your mouth is watering for the cake that is served at your favorite restaurant. So you go to that restaurant and order chocolate cake. After waiting patiently, you get your cake. You pick up a huge forkful of chocolatey goodness and put it in your mouth, only to discover…

SURPRISE!

They changed the recipe, and no one told you. It is now Peanut-Butter-and-Mint-Chocolate Cake.

Assuming you have no potential anaphylactic shock from any possible peanut allergies, you would still be very put out. Yes, at any other time, you might actually have enjoyed trying some Peanut-Butter-and-Mint-Chocolate Cake. But this was not expected, so your tastebuds revolt, and you have to spit it out.

Or, you go to that restaurant to have some soup. Every day, they always have your favorite soup, so you plan on having the same soup. But that day, they tell you, they are out of your soup. Now, they only have “Soup Surprise” – AND you have to order the soup to find out what it is.

Even with this warning, even if a customer did not have any possible food allergies, most people are not likely to order it.

Yes, there are the people who like an adventure and who will try anything, but most people go to their favorite place to have their favorite flavors.

The same is true for books. Most people go to their favorite genres and sub-genres to have their favorite characters and stories. It’s the reason that book and TV series are so popular: people ENJOY the familiar and the comfortable.

For example, I had been a long-time reader of a certain Cozy Tea Mystery series. I enjoyed the characters, the concepts, the pacing, and everything. For eight books, I was comfortable in that town, with that heroine, watching her gradually develop as a character, enjoying that she was gradually developing a romantic interest in the last three. Then, on book number nine… BAM!

The author changed the recipe on my beloved chocolate cake to add mint and peanut butter. For some reason, the heroine had amnesia. All of the regular characters, plus the romantic interest that the author had developed over the last few books, were now gone. Another male character was thrown in the story to take his place. The previously G-rated series now had multiple sex scenes that were written mildly X-Rated, there was more profanity, and the violence of the crime was more graphically described. None of the characters, not even the heroine, seemed familiar. I felt as disoriented as the amnesic heroine of the story claimed to be.

Ordinarily, I know I would have enjoyed this story. The mystery itself was well-conceived, the storytelling in general was very good. But the fact that my favorite chocolate cake now had peanut-butter-and-mint in it left me with a bitter taste in my literary mouth, and I have not picked up that series again.

Another example…

I also enjoy some Science Fiction. There have been more than a few books over the years that people have suggested that I read, because they know I like Science Fiction. But SciFi is a strange animal, and has some very specific rules and formulas. It has many sub-genres that are very unique, including Time Travel, Alternate Universe, Hard Science Tech, Dystopian, and so on. Someone who is not familiar with the distinctions of these sub-genres is quick to assume that because I like some SciFi, that I like all of it. But any SciFi nerd knows that being a Trekkie does not automatically mean you will “go gaga” over Star Wars, or vice versa.

So, when I get these recommendations, I go in knowing that I am ordering the “Soup Surprise”—I merely know it’s soup, and I have no idea if I’ll really enjoy it. The way they describe the book sounds like something I might like, but I just have to read it to find out if it really is the flavor they claim it is. They have read a few SciFi books, so they are just sure this is one of the same kinds of stories that I like.

But that’s like saying, “Hey, I know you like Chicken Noodle Soup. You’re gonna love this. It has chicken in it, too.” (They think it’s the chicken that I like, when I actually enjoy the noodles the most.)

Sometimes I get lucky and they really did recommend a good SciFi story. But Science Fiction, like many genres that encompass a large variety of sub-categories, is not something you can have just a few tastes of, then assume you can make for yourself and mess with the recipe at the same time. As an editor, I have read stories by writers who were trying very hard to write stories from a genre that they had not read sufficiently, or for which they had only seen movies on screen. Their lack of experience with the formulas and “rules” for that kind of book was always apparent.

You might think that they had a right to experiment with that formula, and you would be right. But before changing around a recipe, you need to know the basics – that Chicken Noodle Soup needs to at least have chicken, noodles, and broth. Changing out a basic ingredient in the soup (genre) changes the kind of soup (genre) you are making (writing).

Before you as a writer want to get creative with a genre, be sure you have read enough of that genre to know its sub-genres and formula (“recipe”). Be sure to know what the basic ingredients are, before you end up serving your readers with a literary version of “Peanut-Butter-and-Mint-Chocolate Cake” or “Soup Surprise.”

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So You Want To Be a Freelance Editor…

You’ve seen how overflowing the current marketplace is with self-publishing writers and would-be ebook authors, and you’ve recognized the potential profit to you in becoming a freelance editor. Now what?

Here are some things you should know…

(1) In case you haven’t watched enough People’s Court episodes yet, you need to get everything in writing – changes and amendments to contracts included. “Verbal contract” is a joke, and basically unenforceable by any judge or credit agency. Clients will know this and laugh at your repeated requests for payment, and ignore all your phone calls. Any possible changes that you need to make to your time estimates and schedules must also be in writing.

You’re a professional, and professionals have contracts, written estimates, and invoices. Amateurs and hobbyists have verbal agreements and undocumented phone conversations. Text messages don’t tend to last long enough to act as evidence – phones get lost and phone companies sometimes delete old text messages. Private messages and posts from social media aren’t always accepted or accessible in a courtroom. Only get it in email or on paper.

(2) There are some really crappy writers out there, and some really good ones, but they all can use an editor – but not all of them realize how much they need one.

Unfortunately, they won’t all have a positive and agreeable attitude towards your editorial input. You have to be careful to not upset the writer, and be prepared for the inevitable one who will reject everything you said (no matter how well-stroked their ego), only to go back to the original version (this is often where your paper contract will save you a big loss of time & money).

When I say, “not upset the writer,” I don’t intend for it to be demeaning. What I mean is, that some writers are very good, but take every little correction to heart as evidence of how supposedly “terrible” they are. A very few others shouldn’t even be writing greeting cards, but don’t want to hear that brutal truth. Yet others are very open to criticism and are too willing to make every change you suggest without question (an editor should be questioned, because an editor is not a “Manuscript God”). Most writers are somewhere along this spectrum, and can change their place on it from moment to moment.

Editorial work requires a lot more people skills than many aspiring editors realize. Expect to have a lot of long conversations and polite drawn-out disagreements about such trivial things as the placement and use of a single comma.

Freelance editing is different from editing for a traditional publisher, in that the freelancer has less control or say in the final outcome of the work. Instead of working for the entity who’s paying for the publishing process, and therefore having more say on what is or isn’t in the final print, you work for the writer. The writer is paying for it all, and therefore has final say on his/her own work. You have less authority than an editor at a trade/traditional publisher, and are less able to insist upon anything.

(3) Some clients will only want a “line edit” (basically just a spell-check), while others will want to have a full “book doctor” job, rewrites and all. Yet others will have different expectations along that scale. Clarify what level of editing the client is expecting and put it in the contracts before you start your work.

Restrain your editorial instincts (and grit your teeth to refrain from comments you think ought to be made) when you are asked to only spell-check writing that really needs a major rewrite instead. You can tell them some things (like, “these scenes don’t make sense in the order you wrote them in”), but don’t let yourself start rewriting or making major mark-ups unless the client says that they want that. However, even when the client says they want the content mark-ups etc., don’t be shocked if they sometimes end up ignoring and/or undoing your edits.

(4) Most writers have no idea how many hours it takes to properly edit a document (especially if you do more than just spell-checking for them) and might object to the number of hours of a decent edit (read: unexpected high cost, if you charge them hourly). Keep in touch with clients throughout the process, to give them an idea of how it’s going, so your hours invested won’t be so much of a shock to their pocketbook.

(5) Dedicate as many hours per day as you would be expected to dedicate to an office job somewhere. Don’t treat clients as a hobby or part-time job (unless you clarify with them beforehand in emails that you have another client at the same time, or some other valid professional reason for minimizing your hours). Doing so is very unprofessional, and will hurt you in the long run. Bad business practices do haunt you in these days of online reviews and LinkedIn networking, etc.

First and foremost in this, behave and treat your work the same way would expect a true professional in an office to behave and treat their work. Your client is your boss and your next reference for your “resume” (online reviews, etc), so don’t mess around and/or screw him/her over. Don’t try padding your hours, either. Your client already thinks you’re taking too much time and costing too much. (Besides, that’s dishonest – and honesty always makes for good, professional business practices.)

(6) For your first few freelance gigs, you might want to have a more experienced editor look over your work before showing it to the client. This is not to negate your abilities, but an experienced eye does pick up on things a less-experienced one misses, and it’s a great learning experience that will make you all the more desirable and better-paid in the workforce (freelance or otherwise). Even at my age (I’m in my 50s) and with my many years of experience, another pair of eyes double-checking me has never hurt my work, and only helped it. A good mentor/partner, whether free or paid, is invaluable to any editor.

I think of editing like piano tuning. Some people have an ear for music, and some don’t. Having an ear for music can help you get a career in music, but the ear alone won’t make you a good piano tuner (just as having an eye for typos does not automatically make someone a good editor). To be a good piano tuner, you need professional training and mentorship. (In this, I speak with some personal knowledge; my brother is a piano tuner with an excellent musical ear, but he realized he needed to go to a special school to study the craft.)

The same is true with editorial work: It’s more than just finding typos, it’s also knowing some other things to look for/at, and the people skills needed to deal with authors. There are things that someone of more experience can best teach you. Yes, there are those people who stumble into piano tuning/editing and somehow manage to master it alone, but they are doing it the hard way, and (no offense to anyone who might be doing well after stumbling into freelance editing, but…) the quality of their work is usually not as high as the trained piano tuner/editor.

(7) You can never learn too much about copyrights. Really. Some things on the internet might seem to be public domain, or you might think you are safe using a certain quote as long as you credit it or get verbal approval, but every single thing must be checked and double-checked for legality and reproduction– text, photos, artwork, quotes, music, etc. Merely being past the legal date for becoming Public Domain is NOT safe, because the copyright might have been renewed or purchased at any point along the way.

There are a lot of weird and unusual copyright issues that have come up for me through the years, things that I never expected to be an issue ever.

These days, with the internet, things are actually worse for copyright infringement – but easier for checking out. Never hesitate to send a client to a copyright lawyer if you have any doubts or questions (drag them there kicking and screaming, if necessary).

A famous example of bad copyright checking: The entire big-money “Barney the Dinosaur” show was cancelled because they used a common tune, “This Old Man” redone as “I love you, you love me”. They assumed it was so old as to be public domain. It was not, and they were sued.

Another famous example: Weird Al Yankovic parodied a song after merely asking his agent to ask the other agent. Supposedly, everyone was okay with him doing the parody, but it turns out the band he was mimicking said they had never even heard the request to use the song. (He didn’t have it in writing!)

Even the famous and successful can sometimes mess up a copyright issue, so a good editor should never assume anything, no matter what verbal assurances their client gives them or which lawyers they claim to have spoken to. (Yes, you as an editor can get dragged into a courtroom and be made part of a legal mess for someone else’s copyright infringement.)

And, of course (which also goes back to my original point) – Get everything in writing from the legal copyright holder.

If you enjoyed this blog, please remember to “Like” it (click on the star below) and to “Like” any social media posts/comments where you saw this link. And don’t forget to “Follow” me here on WordPress, for more helpful and concise writing tips. Your positive feedback helps me to help more writers and editors.

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“Show and Tell” in Your Writing

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One of the common problems I have been running across lately in my work as a freelance editor, is that there is a lot of “telling” in the writing, and not much “showing.” The writer “tells” us to be afraid, that the character is arrogant & mean, that the house is falling apart, etc. But the writer fails to create a sense of dread, wonder, and affection for the character.

Instead, the writer should be making the reader afraid, showing them the arrogance of the character and how dilapidated the house is, and so on.

For example, a writer who is only “telling” things might say, “The spooky old house was falling apart.”

But this is far too much “telling.” You have just told the reader that they are supposed to be afraid of the house, instead of creating a sense of dread and fear in them as you describe the house in better detail. The reader will not feel something just because you tell them to, you have to create that mood.

Also: How is it falling apart? Show how it is falling apart: describe the windows cracked, the rotten floorboards, the curtains ragged, the paint on the walls (inside and out) faded and chipping away, etc. Give them a specific image in their mind, so they can visualize the details.

You should also use sensory descriptors and imagery to create the mood and images you wish to convey. Use sensory descriptors to get the reader to feel the danger: sight, sound, smell, etc.

Some examples:

  • The rustling of the leaves in the cold wind made him look over his shoulder. For a moment, the bizarre shapes of the gnarled, twisted branches as they shook in the wind made Peter imagine they were trying to grab at him from all sides.
  • Suddenly, an overwhelming stench hit him. It was the smell of very rotten meat and organic decay. It was the smell of death. His stomach turned over, and he gagged, almost vomiting. The next thing he knew, the scent was gone and he could breathe again.
  • A freezing wind blew out of the woods. It was unnaturally cold, even for this time of year, and was blowing in the opposite direction of the rain. It was as if the woods had a wind of its own. Holly felt the chill of it deep in her bones.

If possible, a writer should also evoke emotions and the readers’ own memories to help create a stronger image, and more powerful writing. Make the reader feel anger at the injustice of the villain’s actions against the hero (or another character), or comfortable & safe at the smell of pie cooking in a kitchen – just before you have the demonic-werewolf-ghost jump through the window and attack someone.

Another example: Instead of calling someone “villainous”, show us how they can be mean and evil. If a main character savagely kicks a homeless man who is merely sleeping in a freezing alleyway, for example, or laughs at the sight of a bully beating up a smaller child, we know that character is not one of the good guys. Such “Random Acts of Villainy” can be just as effective as “Random Acts of Kindness” in showing the reader who your characters are.

One of my favorite characters on TV is Adrian Monk. Every episode we are “shown” his major character traits: He has a keen eye for detail, and a passion to make things right in the world. The writers show this by giving him OCD, and grief over the murder of his late wife. His OCD causes him to notice details that pass by most people, but it is not focused solely on crime scenes: he also obsesses on the placement of every item in the room, the socks someone is wearing, the idea that he might have left his stove on back home, and so on.

The fact that he has an incredible eye for detail is shown to the viewer in countless situations.

Yes, you should have a list of descriptive terms for every character, but you should not share this list with your readers. Instead, try to demonstrate how each character is worthy of those descriptors.

EXAMPLES AND LINKS OF INTEREST:
“Improve Your Writing: Show, Not Tell” (Benjamin’s English) – Video

“How to Show, Not Tell, in Your Writing” (Quotidian Writer) – Video

“How to ‘Show Don’t Tell’ in Creative Writing” (Ignited Ink Writing) – Video

“The definitive guide to ‘show, don’t tell’ ” (The Writer Magazine)

“Why ‘Show, Don’t Tell’ is a Golden Rule of Creative Writing” (Writers.com)

“3 Simple Tips on the ‘Show, Don’t Tell’ Mantra” (Writers Edit)

“How To Show & Not Tell in Short Stories” (Writers Write)

“How to Balance ‘Show, Don’t Tell’ in Your Writing” (Well Storied)

“Show, Don’t Tell: What You Need to Know” (Jerry Jenkins)

“The Three Words That Almost Ruined Me As a Writer” (Literary Hub)

“My Golden Rules to ‘Show Don’t Tell’: 6 useful tips I use in my writing” (The Writers Cooperative)

“How to Show Not Tell in Writing With Exercises” (Self-Publishing School)

If you enjoyed this blog, please remember to “Like” it (click on the star below) and to “Like” any social media posts/comments where you saw this link. And don’t forget to “Follow” me here on WordPress, for more helpful and concise writing tips. Your positive feedback helps me to help more people online.

Thank you!

Thank you!