By Terry Brennan
Certain manuscript issues are constants in conversations with editors and publishers:
· Avoid Point-Of-View problems;
· Resist the urge to explain;
· Show, don’t tell.
In conversations with other authors, show-don’t-tell still leaves many writers frustrated. You want to move the story forward. What’s wrong with having one character say to another, “You know, Joe’s house burned down.” Do we need to be at Joe’s house?
Yes, particularly if Joe is important in the novel.
So, how do we do that? How can we avoid telling the reader something? How can we show them, instead?
An editor told me once, “I love the way you make little stories to show action.” Really? I never realized it. But then I went back through my last book, The Aleppo Code, and found a number of places where the editor was right.
At one point in the book, conflicts erupt simultaneously in locations around the Middle East. An early draft had military officers telling the President about these developments in the White House Situation Room.
As soon as somebody is telling someone else about action, you have a problem.
So I created the action. I introduced, in less than three-quarters of a page:
· Yhanni Goldsmith, an Israeli Defense Force reservist working as a waiter in Tel Aviv as a wave of rockets walked destruction down the street outside his seaside restaurant ;
· Petra, who was driving to her mother’s home near the Lebanese border. It was her mother’s birthday, which is why she braved the crater-lined road, until she came to a crater where her mother’s house should be;
· Colonel Isadore Stanfill, commander of 100 Israeli tanks near Ghajar, Israel, waiting for his “Go” to race into Lebanon with orders to destroy the Hezbollah rocket batteries.
I also created a pivotal naval battle in the Persian Gulf which ran through several chapters. Not only did the battle take the life of Rear Admiral Chauncey “Chipper” Woods, whose frigate, the USS Ingraham, was shredded by an Iranian missile attack, but the battle also introduced Lieutenant Andrew Stone. Fresh out of Annapolis, newly assigned, Stone was part of an amphibious attack team dispatched from the USS Ponce to lay waste to the Iranian naval base on Larak Island. Stone didn’t survive the attack, either. Tragic, since Stone was the son of the American President.
My favorite “show-don’t-tell” character came at the end of the book – Benji Propolski, overnight security guard for the Shrine of the Book, where the Dead Sea Scrolls are kept in Jerusalem’s Israel Museum. Benji was upset because his wife, Melda, forgot to fix his lunch. So he was distracted when, making his rounds, something astounding happened to the most powerful weapon in the history world.
Other than the naval battle, these scenes were not long. Each moved the story forward. Each introduced an interesting character, found nowhere else in the book. And each occurred in the midst of the action, giving the novel more depth.
In a word, they “showed”.
A Pulitzer Prize is one of the many awards Terry Brennan accumulated during his 22-year newspaper career. The Pottstown (PA) Mercury won a Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Writing for a two-year series of editorials published while Brennan was the newspaper’s Editor. Starting out as a sportswriter in Philadelphia, Brennan became an Editor and Publisher for newspapers in Pennsylvania, Illinois, and New York and in 1988 moved to the corporate staff of Ingersoll Publications (400 newspapers in the U.S., Ireland and England) as Executive Editor of all U.S. newspaper titles. In 1996 Brennan transitioned into the nonprofit sector, spending 12 years as VP Operations for The Bowery Mission and six years as Chief Administrative Officer for Care for the Homeless, NYC nonprofits that serve homeless people. Terry and his wife, Andrea, live in the New York City area. Terry’s first novel series, THE JERUSALEM PROPHECIES, was released by Kregel Publications: The Sacred Cipher in July of 2009, The Brotherhood Conspiracy in June of 2013 and The Aleppo Code in October, 2015. The Aleppo Code won the Carol Award as the best Suspense/Thriller of 2015. Website – www.terrybrennanauthor.com Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/terry.brennan.5201
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