Show, Don't Tell
My brother Craig works in the movie industry and has read plenty of movie scripts. He tells me the best scripts adhere to the guiding principle of "show, don't tell".
"The camera can't see what is going on in a character's head," he says. "The story must be told through action, dialogue and imagery."
Good advice for any writer wanting to engage their readers.
Several years ago, I took a trip to Kauai which I described as "one of the most beautiful places in the world". While this sentence might have created some interest, one of my readers asked me WHY I felt this way. That question opened my eyes to how I need to use more imagery to place my readers into the scene, engage their senses and captivate their interest. Here is a much more interesting way to describe Kauai:
"I walked off the boat into a shock of humidity; a wet blanket infused with the scent of a wild variety of unfamiliar fruit. A thick jungle lay before me, sweeping upwards into the serrated pinnacles above the Na Pali coastline."
OK, I'll admit to unfettered poetic license and alliteration, but you get the idea.
Don't Start Sentences With Qualifiers
Starting sentences with qualifiers such as "Of course", "In fact", "For example", make us sound pompous at best and indecisive at worst. I fact, I still have to keep an eye out for offending qualifiers. (You caught that, right?)
My advice? Drop the qualifier crutches and just say it.
"Plan ahead", "past history", and "in actual fact" are some of my favourite redundancies I still need to watch for in my writing. Redundancies are unnecessarily superfluous - whups, there's another one - and they will weaken your writing style.
An exception to this rule - there always seems to be at least one exception - is using redundancy for emphasis. When writing advertising copy, I use redundancy to encourage readers to respond to a call to action. A "free gift" or "added bonus" is more interesting than a "gift" or "bonus".
Everyone loves a mystery, but who likes to be left hanging? A writer's job is to cultivate questions in the minds of readers then provide satisfactory answers to ALL the questions raised.
Done well, questions like "who did it?" and "why did this happen?" will drive a reader on to the conclusion. Done poorly, unanswered and partially answered questions will leave a reader unsatisfied, irritated, and far less likely to invest time to read your next piece.
Another exception, of course: When writing a series of related articles or blog posts, it's acceptable to make a reader wait for the next episode for answers. If this is your practice, I strongly suggest you give assurances to readers that you haven't forgot about their questions and you will address them. Readers will appreciate it, and it gives them something to look forward to.
Let me know what you think of my four strategies to "write strong", and share some of your own for the rest of us.
Enjoy the day and write your way!