Monday, August 12, 2019
We've all read craft books which explain that in our writing, we should show, not tell.
Okay, so I admit it, I thought I could get away with telling and not showing! I'm rewriting a novel I started over 10 years ago. A chapter I read to my critique group over the weekend started off with three pages of back story. Needless to say,they wouldn't let me get away with that! I was told that I was depriving the reader--which is true!
So today I'm rewriting again, and actually looking forward to it. Describing a scene, and interweaving back story into is much more exciting for the reader--and won't put her to sleep.
Instead of me explaining what two weeks in Oberlin, Ohio has been like for a newly escaped slave, I can show her interacting with another character. In my original draft, she merely thinks about this particular character, and how said character shows disdain for her. She also reflects upon her new life and all the changes she's seen.
Now I'll need to create a scenario that enables me to show the newly escaped slave with the character who doesn't like her. This will make for a fun interplay, and the dialogue between them (when not catty) can reveal some of the back story. More elements of the back story can be woven in at a later time, and some aren't really necessary at all to keep the story moving.
So, no shortcuts, please! Avoid that dreaded info dump, and show, don't tell!
Have you done an info dump lately? Thanks so much for visiting today!
Originally published 1/24/11
Monday, August 5, 2019
If you're not familiar with Black Like Me, here's some information regarding it from Wikipedia:
In the fall of 1959, John Howard Griffin decided to investigate firsthand the plight of African Americans in the South, where racial segregation was legal; blacks had been disenfranchised since the turn of the century and closed out of the political system, and whites were struggling to maintain dominance against an increasing civil rights movement.
Griffin consulted a New Orleans dermatologist for aid in darkening his skin, being treated with a course of drugs, sunlamp treatments, and
skin creams. Griffin shaved his head in order to hide his straight hair. He spent weeks travelling as a black man in New Orleans and parts of Mississippi (with side trips to South Carolina and Georgia), getting around mainly by bus and by hitchhiking. He was later accompanied by a photographer who documented the trip, and the project was underwritten by Sepia magazine, in exchange for first publication rights for the articles he planned to write. These were published under the title Journey into Shame.
Griffin published an expanded version of his project as Black Like Me (1961), which became a best seller in 1961. He described in detail the problems an African American encountered in the segregated Deep South meeting the needs for food, shelter, and toilet and other sanitary facilities. Griffin also described the hatred he often felt from white Southerners he encountered in his daily life — shop clerks, ticket sellers, bus drivers, and others. He was particularly shocked by the curiosity white men displayed about his sexual life. He also included anecdotes about white Southerners who were friendly and helpful.
The wide publicity about the book made Griffin a national celebrity for a time.
However, before Black Like Me, Griffin had lived a rather extraordinary life. Here's some of what I learned from an article in Smithsonian:
Born in Dallas in 1920, Griffin was raised in nearby Fort Worth. “We were given the destructive illusion that Negroes were somehow different,” he said. Yet his middle-class Christian parents taught him to treat the family’s black servants with paternalistic kindness. He would always recall the day his
grandfather slapped him for using a common racial epithet of the era. “They’re people,” the old man told the boy. “Don’t you ever let me hear you call them [that] again.”