Glints of Light on Broken Glass: the Art of Showing in Writing

Some of the first things new writers are told is to write what you know, and to show, and not tell. Russian playwright and author Anton Checkhov is credited with having said “Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass,” underscoring the latter. Showing can be a powerful tool when used with discretion, but all too often new authors forget to do this, preferring instead to paint their word pictures with broad strokes rather than choose a finer brush.

I’ve often written about how writing is a construct, something artificial made to seem real. Everything authors do, from creating and recreating setting, penning plot, and/or developing character and dialogue is not real. Everything about any given scene is there for a purpose; the trick is to add them subtly so they seem happenstance .

One mistake many new authors make is in how to express the physical appearance of a character. Having the character stand in front of a mirror and take stock, making note of his or her own hair and eye colour, and the shape of his or her jaw, lips, and nose doesn’t work. How many times have you looked in the mirror and taken stock? When I look in the mirror, the bow of my eyebrow is only important to me if it’s time to get a waxing. I notice my eye colour if my clothes make them pop. I may make note of my hair colour, but only if it’s time for a dye job.

Here’s another mistake. When I flip my hair back from my face, I don’t think that my hair is brown with red highlights as I’m doing so. I might be cognizant of the fact that I’m flipping too many times in a day and am due for a cut. I might get frustrated and sweep it back into a ponytail, but I don’t take note of the colour. Your characters shouldn’t either.

When you get into your car to go to work in the morning, do you take time to contemplate that it’s a 2010 slate grey, four-door Toyota Camry?  Isn’t it more likely you might think that it’s a beater, or that it’s nearly half-a-decade old and still looks like new? Might you think it needs a wash? Would you rub at a patch of dirt to make sure it wasn’t a scratch? Be annoyed that the neighbourhood kids wrote “Wash Me!” with their finger on the trunk again?

If I describe the car, my reader will know a lot about the make and model of the car, but little about the driver. If I get into the driver’s head and show what he’s thinking, I’m building character. If my reader drives a middle-age Camry, s/he might find a small point of identification with my character. If I show my character as either taking pride in the car or neglecting it, I’ve given my reader a more precise point of connection.

The next time you show detail, consider narrative viewpoint. If you describe something your character wouldn’t normally see, think or hear, then change tack.  For example, if I smile, I can’t see my white teeth gleam in the sunlight. I might feel my cheeks ache, the cold air I let in when I part my lips might hurt my overly-sensitive teeth, or I can imagine I must look like a grinning idiot (but I can’t know for sure).

Never forget your job as a writer is to construct an immersive version of reality.   Paint your word pictures with fine detail, and texture with character, dialogue and setting, using only the palette colours limited by your narrative point of view.

Have you noticed these errors in the books you’re reading? Maybe you’ve made some of these errors yourself? Share your experiences in the comments below!

Watch “Almost Human” Instead

I don’t see many movies in the theatre anymore, mostly because there hasn’t been much that’s piqued my interest lately. But this week was my husband’s birthday and he wanted to see Chappie. I agreed so long as I could have a large bag of popcorn and a big glass of cherry-vanilla Coke, thinking I’d have Hugh Jackman to console me.

I should have put up more of a fight. Though it features Jackman and Sigourney Weaver, Chappie is B-movie fodder at it’s mediocre-best.

In a future ripped from the pages of an Almost Human script, Chappie proposes that a few years from now the Johannesburg police force will consist totally of robot automatons. Deon Wilson (Dev Patel), the man responsible for inventing them, has finished an AI program for the robots in his spare time. He steals a robot marked for demolition to test his AI program, which is, in turn, stolen by a group of street thugs who name him Chappie, turn him into a gangsta, and convince him to commit crimes.

Jackman plays the villain in the piece, an ex-soldier, jealous that his destructive behemoth of a robot design lost out to Deon’s design for mass production, who manages to shut down the entire robot force with a virus for the sole purpose of killing people by proxy with the machine. His performance, like many of the others in this movie, is one-dimensional and disappointing.

Do not pay to see Chappie in the theatre. Watch the DVD of iRobot followed by the canon of Almost Human on Shomi instead. No amount of movie-style popcorn and Coca-Cola served from one of those fancy-shmancy machines is worth it.

Indie Lights Book Parade

 

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“Circus Parade” by Alene. alene.deviantart.comI’m

I’m participating in the First Annual Indie Lights Book Parade!

What is a book parade?

Coordinator of the Indie Lights Book Parade, Cheri Roman, describes it this way:

A book parade is like a regular parade, except with books and blogs rather than with floats and city streets. Each author composes one to three blog posts (guest posts, character interviews, excerpts, short stories; the choices are only as limited as you want them to be.) Then, like floats in a parade, each author “visits” a different blog in the parade route each day of the parade.

There’s a Rafflecopter giveaway, too!

Thanks to the wonderful parade authors there are fantastic swag baskets for three awesome winners! Prizes include ebooks, gift cards and fun!

Remember, winning is as easy as visiting, clicking or commenting–easy to enter; easy to win!

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To enter the Rafflecopter giveaway, click here!

My parade schedule…

2 Feb 15 – Charmain Z. Brackett‘s website

4 Feb 15 – Real Life is Better Than Fiction

6 Feb 15 – The Brass Rag

9 Feb 15 – Grilled Cheese and Applesauce

10 Feb 15 – Tracie Robert‘s website

13 Feb 15 – Words

16 Feb 15 – Writing Dreams

18 Feb 15 – Stacy Claflin‘s website

20 Feb 15 –Lisa Buie-Collard‘s website

23 Feb 15 – Gooberella

25 Feb 15 – Ancient City Poets

26 Feb 15 – Whyte’s Wyrd World

27 Feb 15 – Leslie C. Halpern‘s website

Here’s who I’m featuring on my sister site, Britbear’s Book Reviews:

2 Feb 15 – Leslie C. Halpern’s guest post: Six Things I Learned From Writing Children’s Books

4 Feb 15 – Jamie White’s guest post: The Dream

9 Feb 15 – Cynthia CL Eunton’s guest post: Using Video Media for Book Promotions

10 Feb 15 – Lisa Buie-Collard’s guest post: Advice to Up-and-coming Writers

11 Feb 15 – Excerpt from Gone by Stacy Claflin

13 Feb 15 – Interview with author James DiBenedetto

16 Feb 15 – Letter from the correspondence of Lady Fairchild by Jaima Fixen

18 Feb 15 – Cover Reveal for Lily of Peru by David C. Edmonds

25 Feb 15 – Cheri Roman’s guest post: The Shoulda/Coulda/Woulda Series of Writing

26 Feb 15 – Interview with author Ruth O’Neil

27 Feb 15 – Charmain Zimmerman Brackett’s guest post: Circus in Their Blood

Join us online  for the Indie Lights Book Parade Facebook Party! See you there!

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 Indie Lights Book Parade

CW’s The 100 Proves Sometimes the Book Isn’t Always Better

100tvpicThank you so much to Jimmy at Cultured Vultures for posting!

I binge watched the CW’s The 100 over the winter break and was hooked. So hooked, in fact, I wasted no time reading the novel that started it all. I was both disappointed and elated at The 100 by Kass Morgan, and don’t know what to make of it. Here’s why…

To read more, check out my review at the Cultured Vultures site!

Proud to announce, I’m a Cultured Vulture!

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Join the Ultimate Reading Quest!

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CLICK ON THIS BUTTON TO START YOUR QUEST!

WATCH THE VIDEO TO LEARN MORE ABOUT THE READING QUEST.

Happy New Year from all the Authors in the Ultimate Reading Quest! This year myself, and all the Quest authors, want you to enjoy your reading experiences more than ever! So in 2015, the Ultimate Reading Quest has more, more, more! More authors and more books, means more mystery, more danger, more intrigue and more edge-of-your-seat adventure awaits you! We want you, our readers, to be able to fill that Kindle, tablet or E-reader you got for Christmas, with fabulous reads to take you through 2015. The Quest is so much fun! Who doesn’t love searching for treasure? The ULTIMATE READING QUEST is about finding books that are “perfectly” suited to your reading taste by clicking on choices. To thank you for participating, the authors have decided to give away oodles of prizes for free! Enter your name to win Amazon cards and free books from authors! Plus a whole store of treasured books are just waiting to be discovered by you!

Enjoy your journey as you travel through the QUEST! Don’t forget to enter the raffle on the first page of the Quest. And please leave comments or questions for the authors of the Quest. We would love to hear from you. What are you waiting for? Click on the button above or below to get started on your QUEST for the next ULTIMATE READ!

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CLICK ON THE BUTTON TO START YOUR QUEST!

Integrating the art of story with technology and curriculum to enhance learning for the 21st century.
questteaching@gmail.com
Meet the author and get extras at : http://www.questteaching.com/wordpress/
Novel available at the following links : https://www.amazon.com/author/sharonskretting
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Twitter: @QuestTeaching https://twitter.com/QuestTeaching

My Paleo Diet – 1 Year Later

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Chocolate Pecan Pie Muffins – Low Carb and Gluten-Free on All Day I Dream About Food

I began my Paleo diet a little over one year ago today after my trainer suggested it as a way to help me lose weight. Turns out, Paleo for weight loss was an epic fail for me. Though I’ve lost about 4 pounds through the year (and I suppose that’s 4 pounds better off than I was last year), it’s no where near the results others have reported with the switch. Rather than be deterred, I kept with it, still hoping I’d eventually lose the weight, but mainly because I felt better eating this way.

Before the switch to Paleo, my stomach was…let’s just say, unsettled. That’s disappeared. So has the gas, water bloat, brain fog and headaches. Most of my sweet and salty cravings are gone. So is my joint pain. A surprising side effect was that my hot flashes have disappeared, those horrible hormonal waves that made me strip off my jacket and sweater and t-shirt in a mall only to leave me drenched in my own sweat and shivering—are gone! Eating Paleo’s worth it’s weight in gold for that discovery alone.

On the down side (besides no weight loss), food preparation is timely and costly. I can’t come home after a stressful day at work and pop something into the microwave for dinner. I must shop for fresh veggies and meat, prepare them, cook them, and clean up after ward. And while the fact that my kids enjoy my Paleo food is a bonus for them, it’s a negative for me as, no matter how much I think I’ve made, there are never enough leftovers and the whole process must begin anew the next day.

I’ve learned that…

  • I don’t miss processed foods (except where convenience is concerned). In fact, when I eat processed foods, the brain fog and bloat and stomach upset returns the next day as does my hip joint pain, in both hips, including the one that was replaced three years ago.
  • Spiralized zucchini has a consistency similar to Udon noodles when sauced.
  • Stevia leaves an aftertaste and agave’s not as healthy as you think. The best sugar substitutes are coconut sugar and xylitol. Both are plant-based sweetners that are less sweet than refined sugar.
  • I enjoy milk and milk products. My grandfather owned a dairy when I was a child. When he passed, my mom and her siblings took over. I was raised on yogurt, cottage cheese and cream cheese. I never much liked milk because I couldn’t get it cold enough. I learned I had a lactose intolerance with my first pregnancy when I decided to drink more of it. Thank heaven they have lactose free milk for my morning lattes. And though I don’t eat much yogurt or cheese, I do feel for it every once in a while.
  • I can’t cut grains out entirely. When I crave a salty snack, I pop some popcorn. When I eat too much fibre, I need to eat a small serving of rice daily until my body corrects itself. I eat wild rice, because I reason the cavemen I’m emulating might have come across a patch of wild rice at some point and harvested it (Hey! It could happen!).

Lastly, Pinterest is amazing for finding recipes and new weight training moves. Without variety I’d be bored. Pinterest has yielded a number of amazing ideas for recipes. Here are some I’ve tested that I really like:

Microwave Cinnamon Raisin English Muffin on The Big Man’s World

I make a savoury version of this muffin. Take the basic recipe, omit the cinnamon and raisins. Add 2 tablespoons of ground flax seed and a half teaspoon of your favourite spice. I like onion soup mix and/or garlic powder. After microwaving, cut in half like a real English muffin and toast until brown. I use this as sandwich bread, to substitute for a bagel (topped with butter or jam or cream cheese) and as the base for pizza muffins.

Chocolate Pecan Pie Muffins – Low Carb and Gluten-Free on All Day I Dream About Food

When you make this, add in the optional molasses. It gives it a rich feeling and adds little sweetness. The result, when served slightly warm, is reminiscent of pecan pie. I recently served these at work and my colleagues couldn’t believe there wasn’t any flour in it! I take two of these for breakfast once or twice a week.

Chocolate Muffin in a Minute on DJ Foodie

The basic recipe for this muffin is great. Throwing in a teaspoon of chocolate chips makes it better. Ditto chocolate mint chips. This muffin works as a sweet treat to satisfy a craving or as a gooey weekend breakfast.

The Best Paleo Pumpkin Pie on The Paleo Mom

My son absolutely loves this recipe, and I like pumpkin (who knew?). The crust is simply nuts and egg whites and the inside is pumpkin (a vegetable) and eggs. Rather than walnuts, I use pecans for the crust. I’ll sometimes have this for breakfast or lunch or for a guilt-free evening snack. I add a drizzle of pure maple syrup on my piece before eating.

Constantine – 5 reasons why he’s a forgotten regeneration of Dr. Who

Another comic book hero series to debut this season is Constantine.

John Constantine is a self-described “Exorcist, Demonologist, and Master of the Dark Arts”. He engages in Supernatural-type adventures, pitting him against other-worldly bads. Much like Sam and Dean Winchester, Constantine is a reluctant hero and an anti-hero, which only serves to make his character more interesting. (It also doesn’t hurt that, like the Winchester brothers, the actor playing him, Matt Ryan, is easy on the eyes.) But with episode 3–“The Devil’s Vinyl”–John Constantine proves he’s more a forgotten regeneration of Dr. Who than a long-lost Winchester boy.

Here are 5 reasons an argument could be made that John Constantine is a forgotten regeneration of Dr. Who:

[Tweet “5 ways John #Constantine could be a forgotten regeneration of Dr. Who #drwho”]

1. He’s British.

With the exception of Peter Capaldi’s iteration, all of the Doctors have either been British or played British. And so Ryan’s Welsh, but (correct me if I’m wrong) isn’t Wales considered part of Britain?

2. He has a companion.

Beginning with episode 2, Constantine adopts a young, female companion named Zed. Like so many of Dr. Who’s companions, Zed is attractive, smart, and has saved Constantine’s skin on occasion.

3. His home base is a T.A.R.D.I.S.

When Zed first enters Constantine’s underground base of operations she observes it is bigger on the inside, which is the primary feature of the T.A.R.D.I.S.

4. He has psychic paper.

Constantine has an enchanted playing card that makes the viewer see whatever the holder suggests.

5. He has a sonic screwdriver.

Not exactly. A sonic screwdriver is a sort of deus ex machina device that allows Dr. Who to get out of tough situations, simply by pointing it. Constantine has a carpet bag full of tricks. At the start of the episode he introduces an ancient tracking device that he uses later in the story. I would bet there are trinkets enough in that carpet bag to rival anything the sonic screwdriver can do.

And there you have it. Why John Constantine is a forgotten regeneration of Dr. Who!

 

 

The Flash is Superman in disguise

I’m the first to confess – I’m not a comic book aficionado. I haven’t picked up a good Archie comic since I was 12. I’ve never read superhero comics, though I  have to admit, I LOVE the upsurge in superhero television. I was sad to see Smallville go, and I look forward to my weekly dose of Gotham, Arrow and The Flash. I understand the hero and villain archetypes are at play here, but this week, The Flash patterned itself a little too closely after the Superman archetype  than the generic superhero one.

[Tweet “#TheFlash is patterned a little too closely on the #Superman #archetype.”]

In The Flash, Barry Allen is struck by dark matter lightning after a supercollider explosion. He is left with the ability to run incredibly fast (an understatement). He teams up with Star Lab’s Dr. Caitlin Snow, Cisco Ramon, and Dr. Harrison Wells, the scientists responsible for the explosion, to fight crime perpetrated by “meta-humans”, other people affected by the explosion in  Central City. Barry’s mother was killed when he was a child by a man wearing a yellow suit who possessed Flash’s speed, and his father was jailed for the murder. He was raised by his father’s friend, Detective Joe West, alongside Joe’s daughter, Iris. Barry’s in love with Iris, but because he’s too afraid to tell her, Iris is currently dating her father’s partner.

[Tweet “Iris and Barry ARE the new Lois and Clark! #TheFlash #Superman”]

This week on The Flash, Barry defeated a literal “Man of Steel”, the story of Barry’s mother’s murder was re-opened by Joe who believes Barry’s father is innocent. He suspects Dr. Wells was the murderer. He also reveals he knows about Barry’s attraction to his daughter. Meanwhile, Iris is penning a blog about “The Streak”, which puts her in danger. Barry and Joe try to dissuade her from continuing the blog and are unsuccessful. Finding his name in this episode, “The Streak” is renamed “The Flash”. He, too, tries to convince Iris to discontinue the blog. These are the scenes in which The Flash thinks it’s Superman.

In Superman, Lois Lane works with Clark Kent. Clark loves Lois, but he’s too scared to let her know. After meeting him, Lois falls for Superman. Seeing a chance to finally be with the woman of his dreams, Superman capitalizes on the situation. What he does is dishonest, but maybe Lois deserves it, seeing as she can’t see past Clark’s suit, glasses, and awkward social graces. Fans live for the moment when she finally uncovers his ruse.

In The Flash, Iris and Barry are friends. Barry loves Iris, but he’s too scared to let her know. After meeting him, Iris seems to be falling for The Flash. Seeing a chance to finally be with the woman of his dreams, The Flash capitalizes on the situation, flirting with Iris in a number of scenes. What he’s doing is dishonest, but maybe Iris deserves it, seeing as she can’t see past Barry’s geeky exterior and the fact that they were raised as foster brother and sister. Fans will live for the moment when she finally uncovers his ruse.

Get the picture?

[Tweet “Flash IS Superman. Think about it: Dr. Wells is Lex Luthor. Joe is Jonathan. Barry is Clark.”]

Don’t get me wrong. I’m enjoying The Flash. I can’t wait to see what Lex Luthor’s Dr. Wells’s plan is, and I love the fact that Joe has assumed the role of Jonathan Kent to Barry’s Superman. I just wish they stopped hitting us over the head with the comparison.

Move Over Fonzie…OUAT may be along for the ride!

This blog entry was written last week, after Once Upon a Time‘s “Breaking Glass” episode. I was unable to post then, but I’m choosing to do so now because last night’s episode, “The Snow Queen,” echoed the sentiments expressed in it.

Though “The Snow Queen” drew even further connections between the characters we’ve grown to love (Rumple, Belle and Emma), it still focuses more on the Frozen theme than not, which poses a problem for me. And while I dig the role reversal between Rumple and Belle–with Belle as the headstrong and Rumple as vulnerable–Belle was too quick to rush to control Rumple and Rumple too forgiving with no indication of a desire to remedy the situation in the future. Of course, there’s always the possibility that it really wasn’t his dagger and he was just playing along. The thought of this intrigues me more than does any amount of Frozen business.

Move Over Fonzie…OUAT may be along for the ride!


I love (Love, LOVE) Once Upon A Time, but I’m afraid it’s jumped the shark.

I’m not digging the whole Frozen vibe.

[Last] week’s episode took a long time to give up few teasers: Emma’s previous relationship with Lily; Emma reaching out to Regina; the Snow Queen assembling her mirror. Elsa’s search for Anna, the “filler” in this episode, seemed belaboured and contrived.

That’s right. Even a storyline populated with fairy tale and Disney characters, [last] week seemed contrived.

I recently had the opportunity to re-watch OUAT’s first episode when I shared it with my students in a lesson on literary archetypes. I watched the whole episode, twice in a single day (the fourth and fifth time I’ve watched it in entirety) and loved every second of it. By contrast, I don’t think I could ever be persuaded to watch [last] week’s one again.

Maybe it’s because the Frozen episodes come after a rather strong season in Neverland followed by an interesting season in Oz. Maybe it’s because I never saw Frozen. Maybe it’s because this episode lacked the mesmerizing talent of Robert Carlyle.

Whatever the reason, I put my faith in the writers of the show to draw it out of its slump. I’m with you for the long haul, OUAT. Fonzie survived jumping the shark, my hope is that you, too, will emerge victorious for many seasons to come
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Why We Fear Things that go Bump in the Night

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Ready or Not

I never climbed into bed as a child without checking under it first. I’d kneel to the floor in the centre of the room to do it, making sure there was enough distance between the bed and me to have a head start in case I had to make a run for it. The closet door had to stay open, too, for fear something might materialize in it during the night and try to get out. I blame Scholastic’s Real Canadian Ghost Stories series. That and the nightmare I had about the ghost that lived in our basement. (Of course, the fact that there was a Hydro field in our backyard beaming EMFs into my brain might also have had something to do with it.)

[Tweet “I never climbed into bed without checking under it first.”]

As a teen, I played Ouija board with my friends until The Exorcist put a stop to it, read Stephen King, and Peter Straub and Dean Koontz, and relished each and every Freddie and Jason and Michael movie, but was never seriously freaked out until I saw Videodrome and An American Werewolf in London.

As an adult, my fears are of more realistic things–family members sick or dying, school shootings, planes going down (especially with me on them). At some point between hiding under my bedsheets, feeling safe only if all body parts were covered and now, I’ve become immune to the fear of the supernatural in popular culture. Even though I sort of believe in the reality of spirits due to personal experience, I am nevertheless able to watch Ghost Adventures into the wee hours of the morning unaffected.

[Tweet “As an adult I fear more realistic things than the paranormal.”]

Still, I wonder why so many people, including myself, are drawn to horror as a genre and the paranormal in general.

Allegra Ringo, in her article, Why Do Some Brains Enjoy Fear? explains that, when people experience fear, the body releases adrenaline, dopamine and endorphins, in a fight or flight response. It is how our bodies handle these chemicals that determines if we will enjoy a good scare.

[Tweet “How our bodies handle adrenaline, dopamine and endorphines determines if we enjoy being scared.”]

In Why Some People Love Horror Movies While Others Hate Them, Margarita Tartakovsky says it’s because people know the threat isn’t real. People love horror “because they enjoy the adrenaline rush of of being scared while being safe.” She adds that horror, particularly stories involving the supernatural is what scares adults the most. Disease is also an adult fear, which may explain the recent upsurge in zombie fiction.

[Tweet “People love horror because they “enjoy the adrenaline rush of being scared while staying safe.””]

The Revenant was a first for me in the genres of young adult and paranormal fiction. In it I explore the horror of having to lead life after death as a mindless  zombie slave, as well as experiment with the blood and gore of a good Walking Dead episode, at the climax of the story.  The scary elements serve as a backdrop to the central themes of good triumphing over evil and persevering in the face of adversity.