Hooray! This is finally it! The final draft.
I was even more excited when my critters described the story as "heartrending" and "gripping." One even told me the emotion "ripped her guts out" and induced "shoulder-shaking" cries. (So, it makes me happy to make people cry. Does that make me a bully?)
This must be it. Right? I must be ready to query now. Right?
Weeelll, not quite. Not when one of those readers -- Rosslyn Elliot -- shot an e-mail back to me with the best piece of advice in the history of writerdom: Show, don't tell.
Yeah, okay. Every writer knows that piece of advice. I did, too. I knew to avoid (for the most part) words like tasted, saw, felt, heard and -- to a lesser degree -- smelled. But this woman -- who by the way is a great writer and has an agent -- took it a couple of steps further.
First, she pulled the first sentences from Long Road to use as an example:
With nowhere else to turn, I traded the sleet pelting my face for the uncertainty of the passenger seat in a stranger's car. He told me to call him Nick, and when he asked if I was okay, I nodded.
But the bruises on my face exposed the truth.
I wouldn't tell him what happened. I couldn't; the words outweighed me by tons.
And then she pointed out my folly: Kat, you have a tendency to start chapters and scenes with that narrator voice. That's telling. Instead, try jumping into action with your characters first and see where it takes you.
So, I tried it, and this is what I came up with:
The car rolled to a stop just inches from the curb where I stood. Its exhaust glanced off the glistening pavement and curled into the amber glow of the streetlights above. I lowered my head and peered through the passenger window. The driver was young. He didn't look like a freak or a murderer. Maybe I didn't care.
Is it better? That's subjective. It has more clarity. Apparently, the original opening gave some readers the idea that the driver was the one who put the bruises on her face, and the MC was in danger because of him. That's not the first impression I wanted readers to have of my MC's hero.
But that was only one benefit.
More importantly, jumping into action (by showing) at the start of a scene gives the character a "physical base" from which to launch the reader into the story, whereas using narration (er, telling) only gives the reader a play-by-play of the character's thoughts or a blow-by-blow report of what has happened. That makes it hard to snag the reader because it doesn't establish a question of then what happened?
And honestly, sports fans, which would you pick -- a sportscaster "telling" a Husker (or insert your favorite team here) play-by-play on the radio or having the game "shown" on TV?
I think we all know the answer.
So, I took this advice and applied it to all of the scenes where "Heather" narrated the opening. The impact was incredible. It managed to draw the feedback for which I'd been looking from critters: the inability to put it down.
Start scenes showing action. Hmmm...Who would have thought it would be something so simple?
By George, I think Rosslyn is onto something there.
Now, I must tell everyone. :-)