Vocabulary – L is for Letter

The letter L!  L stands for lollipop, laughter, lurking, love and limerick.

Latent – hidden, as in fingerprints or a dormant disease process.  Something usually needs to act on it to bring it out.

Samwise wanted to believe the latent writing on the One Ring, which the fire had revealed, was really an advertisement for a new brand of fertilizer. 

Lagniappe (lan-YAP) – Cajun French, meaning a little something extra, like a tip or gratuity.  A freebie when you check into a hotel or buy something is lagniappe.

Lemures (LEM-ur-eez) – troublesome family ghosts that must be exorcised.

Peeves, the Hogwarts resident poltergeist. Illustration by Mary Grandpre.

Lexicon – usually the vocabulary of a language or profession.  Also can refer to the collection of terminology peculiar to a canon, such as Harry Potter, Star Trek or The Lord of the Rings.

Lhasa Apso – a small canine that resembles a mop.  Originated in Tibet as a watchdog.

Watchdog or fashion victim? You be the judge.

Lhotse– the world’s fourth highest mountain,  Located near Mount Everest in the Himalayas, it’s connected to Everest by the South Col.  The west flank of Lhotse is called the Lhotse Face and rises two miles in only a little over a mile of space.  That’s a steep climb, baby.

The North Col is an easier climb technically, but regardless of which way you go, you will need oxygen once you reach the Death Zone (26,000 feet or more above sea level).  Everest’s summit is at 29,029 feet.  I wish I were really athletic so I could climb it.

What am I, an IDIOT?!?

Libation (lie-BAY-shun) – a celebratory or ceremonial drink.

“Let us indulge in this libation while we watch the lions feast,” said Nero.  He sipped delicately at his goblet of fine wine while observing the screaming gladiators. 

Lipoma – a benign fatty tumor.  Bleah!

Llew (Welsh) – lion.  It is NOT pronounced the way it looks!  Click here and then click the little arrow to hear a man’s voice say the word.

Louver (LOO-ver )– a sloped slat, as in a door or shutter.

Lordosis – sharp inward curvature of the lumbar spine.  Swayback.

Lulu – sorceress character in the Final Fantasy X game for PS2.   Her Japanese name isルールー.  No, I don’t know how it’s pronounced.  Yes, I’m playing it—or rather, exhibiting my complete incompetence in it by constantly killing everybody.

That little teddy thing is a Moogle. Never fight monsters with it! It doesn't do anything!

Luthier – a craftsman who makes stringed instruments.  I know one. :)

Lycanthrope (LIE-kun-throhp) – werewolf.

Lyonnaise – style of cooking sliced or diced potatoes in butter with onions and parsley.  Mmm.

Scrumptious.

That’s all the words for today, people.  See you next time!

Show vs. Tell Revisited

Show vs. tell is one of the toughest things for beginning writers to grasp.   You’d think that exposition would be easy.  It is, when you’re explaining something.  But you can’t do that through a whole book, or your reader will get tired.

To show readers something takes more time and more words, but it brings your prose to life.  Would you rather see a movie, or have your friend tell you about it like “And then the Brad Pitt guy took this thing, and he shot this other guy with it, and then the villain—I can’t remember his name, but you would know him—blew up the bridge and they flew through the air—“ et al.

A while ago, I wrote a post trying to explain the difference between show and tell in writing.  Well, I was reading back through some old entries and realized my examples were WRONG WRONG WRONG.

I think I finally get it (let’s hope so).  After doing rewrites of certain bits of my book Rose’s Hostage and forcing myself to take time to read more, I was able to see the concept more clearly.

Telling is just like it says, telling.

Buffy and Xander were terrified of the Powder Demon and its deadly spray, which rendered its victims immobile before their skin dissolved from their flesh.

Yeah, okay, but it’s dull.   Try this instead:

Buffy’s chest tightened, a fist squeezing her throat shut.  Her legs wobbled and she halted.  The Powder Demon hadn’t seen them yet.  She glanced at Xander and saw his eyes roll back in his head, and caught him as he fainted.  Her skin itched as she thought of the poor cop, dissolving like a piece of soap coated with the Demon’s spray.

Nowhere in here do I tell you Buffy and Xander are scared, but you figure it out from the way they are acting.

Please don’t do it with Hollywood dialogue, like this example where Joker tells Batman the incredibly obvious:

“Why, look, it’s the Batman,” Joker whispered, his foul breath drifting into the captured hero’s face.  “You thought you could keep your secret identity a secret, didn’t you? But then you crashed your Batcycle on the slippery oil I poured on the roadway.  And then your wallet fell out of your cape!  Sloppy, sloppy.  I’ve got you now, Bruce Wayne!”

Urp!

Skipping a scene entirely and telling about it later also works for transitions when:

  • Your character is doing something tedious that you don’t want to waste time on before the next scene. Your scenes should advance the plot, not describe someone’s bathroom routine, unless you’re establishing character.
  • You’re starting a new book or new episode and want to review (re Harry at the Dursleys house in each subsequent Harry Potter book).

In Rose’s Hostage,  I originally had the bank robber musing about his lost money like this:

Joshua had been surprised and shocked when he showed up at Stefano Barbieri’s dry cleaners, one of the front businesses for the money laundering operation and his preferred pickup point, and Stefano told him it was gone.  He and Stefano had gone out back and had a little argument about not checking with him first.  In fact, his knuckles were still scraped raw. 

Dull, boring and blah.

In revision, that ended up as a really fun scene by itself.  I was able to establish a motive for Barbieri to later ID the bank robber and tie up a loose end from an earlier cut.

Heh heh.  Revision is fun.

The best cinematic example I know of show vs. tell is George Lucas’ 1971 science fiction film TXH 1138, starring Robert Duvall and Donald Pleasance.  A dystopian society is revealed to us not through voice-over narration, but through the daily activities of the title character, everyday-type dialogue (no exposition) and setting.  Gradually we come to realize how these people are living.

Showing is easy in film but not so much with prose.  Practice with some of your own work.  Look for examples where you’ve told your readers what you want them to know, and see if you can’t expand a little and show them instead.

Novel Excerpts

I’ve posted the first two chapters of my unpublished novel, Rose’s Hostage, on the Read Me page.  You can get to it at this link http://aelizabethwest.wordpress.com/excerpts/ (scroll down) or go to the header at the top of the page and click on the drop-downs under Read Me.

Rose’s Hostage is crime fiction.  For those readers I have who are younger or particularly sensitive, this is not a G-rated book.  I have included a short jacket flap-style teaser on the Read me page you might want to check out.