Brother-in-arms Gregg at Dinners from Hell has featured yours truly and the worst night I ever had in my former life as a restaurant superhero assassin. Stop by and check them out. The tale’s grim, but the website’s truly awesome, and full of other stories, all outstanding. Oh, and gluten. There’s gluten there. Because gluten’s awesome. And if you disagree it’s because the Evil Celiac Brotherhood has brainwashed you. I don’t really blame them though. If I couldn’t eat gluten I’d be evil too.
I’d like to take a sec to thank The Readers Hollow, a great site that gave me a great review! But that aside, if you’re looking for something to read check them out, TRH does a professional job sifting through a lot of books and showcases the best the literary world has to offer. If it’s worth reading, they’ve covered it, and I’m grateful they took the time to read my work. Seriously Erin, if you ever need to hide a dead body* I’m your man!
*not kidding Erin, I got a really good shovel and some cologne that corpse dogs detest!
Having too much narration in your story is a lot like keeping a rotary phone in your house; both are heavy, slow, and no longer practical for their original use. But unlike narration rotary phones can still come in handy, like if you want to beat a home invader to death (assuming you could lift it…
See, kind of like the rotary phone narration was once an all purpose tool. It allowed anybody to write, and write well. But like other terrible ideas; racism, sexism, and murdering a rabbit as a pregnancy test, narration is no longer socially acceptable. Audiences have become more savvy. They expect better. Now we need to manipulate their emotions to bring them personally into our tales, and the only way to do that is with action and dialogue.
I know I beat those two drums a lot, but it’s a fact. And for those of us who want to write full length novels it’s vital. Because when you narrate you tell, and with action/dialogue you show. Which is as stark as the difference between hearing about how fun a concert was, and actually going to it. So I’m going to give you two examples, the first complex and the second simple, but both will show, not tell, why narration when overused is poison to your pen.
Mary entered the room and everyone in the place stopped speaking. Some were perplexed, others amazed, but nobody knew who she was. Each group of people she passed whispered among themselves about this mysterious, beautiful stranger.
You see what just happened there. I told you about the moment. I summarized it. Which basically meant I stood between you and the occurrence and reported it to you. Not a lot of fun. Now let’s see what happens when we create the same scene with dialogue and action…
Mary entered the room and the partygoers went silent. She descended the staircase, and as she passed the groups of people they began to whisper among themselves.
“Who is she?” one woman said.
“Her?” a gentleman said. “I hear she’s the heiress to a German baron, but had to leave Hamburg because of a scandal involving the Prime Minister.”
“No,” another lady said. “She’s the president’s secret illegitimate daughter.”
“Not daughter.” Another partygoer shook her head. “She’s the president’s mistress. My tennis coach’s masseuse knows her driver’s girlfriend.”
Mary heard the last one and smiled. Not even close.
Can you spot the difference? In the second example it’s like we’re at the party with Mary. We’re walking along side her as the rumors swirl. We don’t need to be told she’s mysterious because the people’s reactions clearly show us that. And we’re just as perplexed as they are. We feel the same way.
And this is why narration is such a dead fish, and why three hundred pages of it is like an ambien overdose. It not only severs all emotional ties between reader and story, but stops all forward momentum (your book’s pace) like Freedom Force’s Stonewall.
But if you’re still not convinced about how awful narration is let’s apply it not to fiction, but to a simple joke…
A priest runs into a member of his church, and says, “John, I haven’t seen you in months!”
John says, “Sorry Father, I stopped going to church. It’s just so full of hypocrites.”
“Yeah,” the priest says, shaking his head, “but we can always find room for one more!”
Funny right? Let’s see if narrating the joke makes it better or worse…
A priest ran into a former churchgoer and they exchange a few, humorous words.
Ahhh, good stuff! But seriously, if you can avoid narration in your writing, do it. Everyone will thank you.
You may not know this but before I was a struggling author I was an outstanding waiter in Philadelphia, Honolulu, and Singapore. Yep, for twenty long, Godless years I slung trays in BYO’s, steak houses, and five star joints alike, and I’ve used this skill to write a guest blog for Steve over at Waiter Rants. Stop by his site and check out the unvarnished truth about hospitality. Unless you’ve never worked in a restaurant before, cause we don’t often cotton to outsiders (you’re ok though, I’ll show you the handshake).
I’ve called many places home. Wilmington, Tucson, Philadelphia, Hawaii, and even Singapore, but one year ago my wife and I moved to China. That’s not long enough to know a country, but it’s enough to know a city, so please allow me to introduce you to life in Ningbo, the Venice of south east China.
Food and drink
So, the first thing you’ll notice in China is that you can’t drink the tap water. I’d like to blame fracking, but I don’t think they do that here. And it’s not that they made the pipes out of lead, either. It’s that they made the water out of lead. That or the local industry uses our reservoir to wash their lead, but whatever the reason, we buy bottled water all the time. Chinese bottled water. Which I swear tastes like water from a tap. Not that it’s a problem because for 50 cents you can get a Tsingtao Beer!
Which also tastes like water from the tap.
But the food’s pretty great, and I know you can’t tell from the tone, but I’m actually being serious here. Chinese cuisine is quite different on the mainland than it is back home in the states, and healthier as well. Though there are some definite adventurous aspects. Like buying eggs, they’re loose. They don’t put them in cartons. Take a look:
Awesome, right?! Those are actual dinosaur eggs! Or maybe dragon, I don’t know, but either way check out the size of them! Those are chicken eggs in the back for scale! Incredible, right? But that’s the supermarket, if you want a snack on the go you can always have a duck gizzard.
Mmmm, Duck Gizzards. It’s like chewing gum. Made from a duck’s gizzard. But if cooking at home’s not your thing you can always head to a restaurant, where you’ll encounter the greatest menu items in the world.
Demolition shrimp? Donkey blasting mutton? It’s like Michael Bay designed these menus. I ordered two of each.
Now, before you ask the answer is: Yes, there are some amazing opportunities to buy some really well made knockoffs. They’ve got everything out here. Guchee, Calvin Cline, Lulumellon… In fact, I purchased these for my wife last month:
See, thanks to the quality stitching I bet you didn’t notice but those aren’t official Disnee brand Mikey Mouse slippers! And they only cost half the price!
But it doesn’t end with clothing, the technology out here is so amazing it’s like living on the bridge of the USS Enterprise. I swung by the electronics store a few days ago, check out that selection:
Seriously, where else can you buy a Newton, a pager, and a car phone? Nowhere, that’s where. And of course I bought a new phone here. Granted it only calls 1987 and weighs twenty pounds, but that makes it retro. And impervious to theft.
Getting around Ningbo is awesomely easy. If you own a car. I don’t, so I walk and bike, and the first thing I noticed was, and I’m not joking here, there’s rubble everywhere. In vacant fields, next to schools, in the middle of the road… So much rubble.
I don’t know how many buildings were here before I arrived, but there’s only like half as many now and the rest have been destroyed to build more buildings, which I assume will be destroyed to make more rubble. That’s what the Chinese Lion King calls the circle of life.
But barring the rubble, the streets themselves are actually pretty easy to navigate. Ningbo has signs all over that can help a new expat like me. Take a look:
Just look at that thing, what does it mean? No trucks, no bikes, no mopeds, and yet there’s a truck coming in the opposite direction that I think the sign says is illegal! And that’s just a small sample. What’s so cool about getting around in China is while America and other Western nations had time to slowly adapt to cars (first the kind with cranks, then the ones we have today) China just jumped from bikes to Ferraris which makes crossing a road in China the highest stakes game of Frogger you will ever play. And the traffic laws, like the traffic lights are mere suggestions, kind of like the parking lines.
So what do you call a place with poison water, plentiful duck gizzards, antiquated phones, and Mad Max style road conditions? Well, you could call it crazy, but the fact is that every culture seems odd to the people who aren’t of it. Or you could call it adventure, because the smallest roads here have four lanes with no lines and each one goes in a different direction. And while both of those descriptions are pretty apt, they’re not to my taste, because despite how insane Ningbo is, how rubble filled, and how alien, I’m actually proud to call it home.
Add one more hero to the mix as Karleigh Reads joins the ranks of the Gold Coast City white capes by helping to flense the world of evil with a guest post from yours truly. So head on over there and check out her site. She’s a dame who knows books, and champions the indies of the world, as well as offering insight on the craft we all love. But if you show up after sundown don’t expect her to be around. I’m pretty sure she dons a cape and cowl to fight crime at night. Granted that’s just a theory, but then again so is evolution… so, you know. It’s definitely true.
After my dizzying descent into a sociopathic need for revenge (and the redemption that came from resisting it) I’ve finally come to the end of my review troll roller coaster. And I’m strangely grateful because it’s taught me one thing: people are pretty amazing. For every one person who tries to be a dick there will be ten to pop up and help stop them. Ten to roll their eyes and think, “What a jerk.” Ten to support the artist.
Ten to one. Those are good odds. It’s like this world’s a happy hydra.
And I’m happy too. Because a single mean spirited review is a small price to pay to be reminded that there’s far more heroism and good deeds in one revolution of the real world than all the Marvel and DC comics in print. So don’t ever run the human race down to me. Sure we make mistakes, and act out in destructive ways, but in our hearts we’re superheroes, one and all.
Dane Curse is now available on a few different platforms. Which ones? ALL of them! So if you don’t dig the kindle, or avoid Amazon in general, you’re now able to take a ride through Gold Coast City with the gas mashed down and the windows wide open. Enjoy!
On Apple iBooks… (go to itunes)
While I spit hot PI palaver steeped in testosterone I’d be a fool not to recognize the obvious skills of Laurette Long, who’s trio of lovely ladies mix it up just right. Big ups to A Readers Review Blog for showing her love!
Hot Basque is the second novel of A French Summer by Laurette Long. The characters do cross over into book 2, however both novels can be read as stand-alones. I am looking forward to reviewing Hot Basque over the coming weeks, and I’m sure it will be a beautiful, scenic contemporary romance! A perfect holiday read!! (Please read below for an excerpt and author bio!) 🙂
Author: Laurette Long
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Chick-Lit
Release date: May 11th, 2015
Length: 341 pages
Blurb:Sit back with a glass of chilled rosé and let yourself be carried away to the white sands and pounding surf of the French Basque coast. What could be more relaxing? Find out what’s going on at the Villa Julia, where Caroline and her honey are enjoying the song of the crickets, the glow of the stars and happy…
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