Posted On November 25, 2013 by Print This Post

There’s No Business Like Show Business with Audra North

I know that when I write, my scenes play out in my head like a movie. I always thought it was just my little quirk but Audra North shares with us today a perfect way to use it to balance show versus tell. Welcome Audra!

There’s No Business Like Show Business

Viewing your book through the lens of a movie camera

We’ve all heard the phrase, “Show, don’t tell.” Each of us has probably been guilty of over-telling at some point in our writing career, AudraNorthand advice abounds all over the interwebs on how to show more and tell less.

Well, hello, interwebs. Allow me to add one more bit of advice to your bounty.

Although, to be honest, it’s not really advice, per se. It’s more like a fun little game that you can play to test the “showiness” of your work. And it’s pretty darn useful, if I do say so myself. I call it “The Movie Game.”

The degree of showiness that you’re striving for might vary. But that’s okay. You can still use The Movie Game to determine how your manuscript stacks up against the level of show-versus-tell that you’re aiming for. It’s easy to play, too. Just choose a scene—any scene!—in your book and apply these three simple rules:

Rule Number One: Act out every written action. Every action executed by human, beast, Mother Nature, or Father Time. Every little finger twitch, every falling leaf, every tick of the clock. Everything.

Rule Number Two: Every thought a character has should be spoken aloud.

Rule Number Three: There is no narrator. Repeat after me. There is no narrator. Every time there is narrative that isn’t describing an action, change it to complete silence.

And that’s it! Ready to play?

Let’s start with our first contestant, whom we’ll call “Version One.”

Bob asked Karen to go for a walk in the rain. She didn’t like walking in wet weather, but she was willing to do it for him. Because I don’t want to hurt him, she thought.

And at least she had her hooded yellow slicker, which would protect her gray hair and even grayer spirits from the dreary weather. “Okay. I’ll go,” she told him.

He smiled in response, and seeing that made her feel pleased that she’d agreed to accompany him.

Now, just imagine what that would look like if we ran Version One through The Movie Game:

Ten seconds of Karen and Bob just standing there like lumps.
“Because I don’t want to hurt him.”
Ten more seconds of lumpish silence.
“Okay, I’ll go.”
Bob smiles.

Awkward, right? Because do you know how long ten seconds feels like when it’s ten seconds of watching someone stand completely still and stare at nothing? Now, imagine what thirty seconds of that would be like. Or a full minute. Borrrrring.

May as well just fold production right now, because that book is going to tank at the box office. (And, yeah, I know I’m mixing things up a little, here, but let’s just run with it.)

Now let’s meet Version Two:

Karen brought a hand up to her neck, pushing her fingers into the soft gray strands at the nape. She looked out at the rain. “Go for a walk? Right now?” A large drop of water hit the window, spraying over the pane, and she frowned.

“We don’t have to go outside if you don’t want to. I just want to spend time with you.”

The disappointment in Bob’s voice had her briefly squeezing her eyes shut in remorse. I’m sorry. I hate myself when I hurt you.

A reflection in the glass caught her attention—her yellow raincoat, draped over the back of a kitchen chair—and the bright dash of color buoyed her spirits. She even managed to muster a small smile before turning back to face him. “Okay. I’ll go.”

He grinned at her—a boyish expression that she remembered from the early days of their marriage—and she couldn’t help but grin back.

Now for Version Two to play The Movie Game! Come on dowwwn, Version Two!

Karen rubs the back of her neck. Slides her fingers up into her gray hair.
Karen looks out at the rain.
“Go for a walk? Right now?”
Water hits the window and splatters.
Karen frowns.
“We don’t have to go outside if you don’t want to. I just want to spend time with you.”
Karen briefly squeezes her eyes shut.
“I’m sorry. I hate myself when I hurt you.”
Karen sees a reflection of bright yellow in the window.
Two seconds of staring at the reflection.
Karen smiles.
Karen turns around to face Bob.
“Okay, I’ll go.”
Bob grins.
One second of staring at Bob.
Karen grins.

Oh, my gosh! Did you see that? Did you? Version Two’s film script is way closer to its original prose than Version One’s. The characters say more. They have more thoughts. The whole thing is defined by action and—oh, my gosh, I can’t take it anymore! We have a winnerrr!

Both versions in their pre-movie forms contain essentially the same information. But one version delivers that information in a more interesting way than the other. And that is exactly what we strive to achieve with more show, less tell. To engage the reader. To make what they are reading more interesting.

However, sometimes, more telling isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Narrative doesn’t always have to be sacrificed for the sake of show. As I mentioned before, not every book is aiming for the same level of show-versus-tell. And sometimes it’s necessary to include longer sections of descriptive language, such as when a character first walks into a room and takes in the plush rug, overstuffed couches, and roaring fire in the large stone hearth. (Side note: If you know of a place like this, please let me know and I will come there immediately.)
So good luck, writers! Go forth and turn your book into a movie (except not really). And if The Movie Game doesn’t end up working for you, well…there’s always plenty of other advice hanging around the inter webs.

Audra’s debut novella, Falling for the CEO, releases today from Entangled Publishing! See below for a description of the book and a FftC-ornament-giveawaygiveaway!

It’s that time of year…a time of joy, love, and celebration! And in Falling for the CEO, this year’s Christmas holidays will be bringing an extra helping of all three of those things to the hero and heroine.

In keeping with that Christmas spirit, I’m giving away this adorable book ornament to one lucky commenter! Hang it on your tree, your office door, or—heck, go ahead and re-gift it (This is where I admit to being an occasional re-gifter, so I will not judge you one iota.)

To enter, just leave a comment by the end of the day on Tuesday, November 26th, and tell me why you love holiday stories. Or tell me your favorite movie-that-was-a-book-first (mine is Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow). Or…just say hello and talk about whatever you want!

On Wednesday morning, I’ll choose a winner, so be sure to also leave a way that I can contact you.

***

So, how does your story stack up to the Movie Game?

Annie Seaton visits with us tomorrow to shed light on the glamour and the grind of writing . . .

***

FFTC-coverFalling for the CEO

Finance genius Meredith Klaus prefers numbers to people, especially around the holidays. At least the large sum of money that’s mysteriously vanished from the company accounts will distract her from the ghosts of Christmases past. Until her sexy boss asks her to be his last-minute date to a fundraiser gala, that is, and the promise of a special evening calls to something long-buried in her.

Andrew Stanton, Manhattan’s best-known philanthropist, has worked hard building his reputation in the industry. He offers to work closely with Meredith to fix his company’s financial crisis, but the more time they spend together, the harder it becomes to look at her as just a colleague.

A beautiful dress. A handsome man on her arm. A challenge she can’t refuse. Can they find the missing money and fulfill their holiday wishes, or will Meredith be unable to overcome the demons of her past and lose her chance at happiness?

 

 

Buy links
Amazon  Barnes &Noble  iTunes

Bio:

Audra North fell in love with romance at age thirteen and spent the next twenty years reading as many romance novels as she could. Even now, after having read over one thousand of them, Audra still can’t resist the lure of a happily ever after, and her collection continues to grow. She lives near Boston with her husband, three young children, and a lot of books. Visit her website at audranorth.com or find her (way too frequently) on Twitter @AudraNorth

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Discussion

18 Responses to “There’s No Business Like Show Business with Audra North”

  1. Hi Audra,

    I’m a huge movie fan and it has influenced my writing. The setting becomes another character to me. The Harry Potter books have been made into excellent films. The casting of Alan Rickman as Snape was the key.

    Mary Jo

    Posted by Mary Jo Burke | November 25, 2013, 8:40 am
    • I agree, Mary Jo. Alan Rickman as Snape was a genius choice on the part of the casting director. I don’t think there would have been nearly as much Harry Potter fanfic w/o Rickman as Snape!

      Thanks for commenting!

      Audra

      Posted by Audra North | November 25, 2013, 9:00 am
  2. Morning Audra…

    Sometimes the book comes out of my head like a movie, sometimes it’s more like pulling it out of a tangled mass of yarn. =) But, the good scenes just flow….

    I do a lot of the acting out as well, to the annoyance of those around me…lol…flinging my arms around to see if this move would work and trying to get my eyebrows to beetle. I’m sure I’m entertaining to watch..lol

    thanks for a great post!

    carrie

    Posted by Carrie Spencer | November 25, 2013, 9:09 am
    • I can just picture the look on people’s faces if they see you doing that! :) Sometimes turning the words on the page into a theatrical production is the only way to get at the heart of what’s wrong with a scene…or to untangle that mass of yarn!

      Thanks for sharing!

      Audra

      Posted by Audra North | November 25, 2013, 9:24 am
  3. This is amazing – I had a very similar revelation recently while watching Tobey Maguire in Spiderman. It came to me when I saw Peter Parker sitting on the roof of a building weeping over losing his Uncle Ben – I thought, this is it! The perfect show, don’t tell moment! I love your version with The Movie Game. Incredibly useful, and so revealing.

    Posted by Lori Schafer | November 25, 2013, 9:38 am
  4. Okaaaaay – I finally get it! (newby writer here) And I just did this with one of my scenes in the WIP. Oh my, it’s so clear how I was telling too much. Thank you very much for making it so clear. A good example is the best education for me. I’m going to be busy examining my work with a clearer eye. Cheers.

    Posted by Celia Lewis | November 25, 2013, 11:27 am
  5. Hi Audra,

    Whenever I watch an opening scene in a movie, my brain translates it into a first page of a a book. I may not know what’s going on, who the characters are, but that first scene must intrigue and make me want to know more. Watching movies has also taught me a lot about pacing.

    Thanks for blogging with us today!

    Posted by Jennifer Tanner | November 25, 2013, 1:21 pm
    • Thanks for having me! That’s a great point about opening scene. I have the same feeling–that the movie or book has to grab me from the beginning or it’s difficult to keep watching/reading.

      Thanks for the comment!

      Audra

      Posted by Audra North | November 25, 2013, 1:27 pm
  6. Darn – I posted a comment before but it didn’t show up. I keep losing internet service and it’s driving me nuts!

    First of all, congratulations on your new release, Audra – how exciting!

    Second, thanks for this fabulous advice. I have a bad habit of slipping into telling, and this should help a lot.

    Great post!

    Posted by Becke Martin Davis | November 25, 2013, 2:59 pm
  7. Well, The holidays are coming at a fast pace. I personally believe that the holidays are something that a child enjoys more than anybody else. Yes what I mean by that, is adults and oldies like my grandma and my parents. Anyway, the memories of our own childhood is what we like, most people recall their own joy and happy moments as a child when the holidays come around. I love that, I love to see the smile on my kids and the songs that remind me of my self as a child. :)

    Posted by Mildred | November 25, 2013, 11:53 pm
  8. Audra:

    Love how you SHOW us how to show instead of tell. So many well-meaning people hold out the “show, don’t tell” mantra, but few are able to communicate what the difference between the two are, and how to work on your own prose to avoid the deathtrap of overtelling.

    — Jackie

    Posted by Jackie Horne | November 26, 2013, 9:36 am
    • Thank you so much, Jackie! I’ve personally been through quite a bit of trial and error in developing what works best for my own writing, but I will say that RWA and great writer friends have helped so much in my learning process! :)

      Audra

      Posted by Audra North | November 26, 2013, 10:18 am
  9. Good morning, everyone! The winner of the ornament giveaway is Becke! Thank you so much to all of you for reading and commenting!

    Audra

    Posted by Audra North | November 27, 2013, 5:24 am
  10. Hi, i think that i noticed you visited my weblog so i came to go back the want?.I am attempting to find issues to improve my site!I suppose its
    good enough to make use of a few of your ideas!!

    Posted by Klaus | January 8, 2014, 1:46 am

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