I keep coming back to this classic nugget of writing advice which we often use to describe a character’s emotions (“he glared and slammed the door” vs. “he was mad”), but can apply — should apply — to all writing. Perhaps this is something most writers intuitively understand when they first hear “show, not tell,” but it’s taken me the last few months to tease this out.
So often with a new book I focus on “what am I trying to say?” and risk being either heavy handed or unclear. But if I think about what the characters show through their lives — as one event leads to the next — the story’s much more organic and real.
Now that I think of it, this fits the concept of writing from the inside out (character and story directed) rather than the outside in (author imposed), an idea I’ve been working through since reading a post Avi shared last year. Avi mentions a quote by author John McDonald. “Better to be pulled by your text, than to push it.” The external (or the pushy author!) isn’t shaping the story, the story is shaping itself.
Food for thought.