Uncategorized On the Art of Writing by Chris Hill
On the Art of Writing by Chris Hill
May 4, 2015 0 Comments
On the Art of Writing
by Chris Hill
I thought I’d share a couple of my favourite quotes about writing and what I think of them – one is quite well known, the other less so, but I think they both have something useful to teach us writers.
The first is from the Russian master story writer and dramatist Anton Chekhov who said famously:
“Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.”
What’s that all about then? Well basically what he’s summing up in powerful and poetic fashion is what has come to be known as ‘show don’t tell.’ That’s a technique much beloved of creative writing courses where would be writers are encouraged, for example, to focus not on telling the reader directly what a character is feeling, but instead on showing the reader things which allow him to make his own mind up.
For what it’s worth, my view on this is that a better phrase would be ‘show and tell’. The trouble with being prescriptive in writing is that it excludes—and while excluding some terrible writing it might also exclude some great, experimental work. So it never does to be too closed minded. Still, it’s a useful point to bear in mind I think, show don’t tell.
Whether you are describing moonlight or a character’s state of mind the route one – blunt description is likely to be less involving, less evocative for the reader than showing them something which draws them into the text and allows them to decide for themselves what is going on. Do it that way and you have given them a stake in the action— you have made the reader part of the story.
Now here’s some advice on writing from a more unusual source. The great movie director Alfred Hitchock was once asked how long a couple could reasonably be seen on a movie screen, kissing on a bed. He replied:
“As long as you want—as long as there’s a bomb under the bed.”
Portly, upper-crust curmudgeon he may have been – but he knew about story telling didn’t he? Whatever kind of fiction you are writing it’s a very important thing I think, that bomb under the bed.
When I think of the better writing I’ve done, the stories which work well, it’s not usually the style of the writing, the quality of the jokes, or whatever, which sets them apart—it’s something else—it’s the presence of dramatic tension, the bomb under the bed.
If you don’t have that dramatic tension in a story you are writing then the words pretty as they might be, can lack focus.
When I’m writing fiction now I sometimes stop and ask myself where it is – that bomb – that sense of jeopardy. The form it takes varies widely depending on what you are writing of course , but in some form it’s a must.
Chris Hill is an author whose latest book The Pick-Up Artist was released in February 2015 by Magic Oxygen Publishing, you can find it on Amazon here:http://www.amazon.co.uk/Pick-Up-Artist-about-Dating-Digital/dp/1910094161/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1424014293&sr=8-1&keywords=the+pick+up+artist+chris+hill.
You can find Chris on his website here http://www.chrishillauthor.co.uk/ on Twitter @ChilledCh and on Facebook here https://www.facebook.com/chris.hill.3726
Chris Hill is an accomplished writer and author with a Bridport Prize winning feather in his cap His first novel, Song of the Sea God, was published by ; and was shortlisted for the Daily Telegraph Novel in a Year competition as well as winning the eFestival of Words award for best literary fiction. Chris Hill works in communications and has a background in newspaper journalism as a reporter, news editor and editor. His second novel, The Pick-Up Artist, was published by Magic Oxygen in early February 2015. It is described as a raucous rom com about dating in the digital age.