As one struggling to become a good writer, good being the operative word, I read and study something about writing almost every day. Recently I read an article by author Cheryl St. John. She talked about what she learned from a book written by Dwight V. Swain in 1965. Hmm, that long ago you say? Yeah, all the new stuff being written today about ‘showing’ and not ‘telling’ is all in his old book, Techniques of The Selling Writer. Cheryl said the book was deep and hard for her to stay with at first—I loved it from the first sentence. I like logical, down to earth deep thinking and writing, not the ‘longhair-deep-off-the-wall’ stuff that some writers like to do; just a personal thing. 🙂
Dwight Swain explains writing as if he’s talking to a reasonably intelligent person who has a desire to write interesting books. Page-turner books that sell.
Everyone out there who fits this category, raise your hand.
So you wonder what the photos of my lunch have to do with anything about writing? Mr. Swain says that change must happen to keep a story moving forward. We humans are moved and motivated by change. We’re hard-wired that way. I thought about the changes that took place in my head over one tiny incident—a plate of food. I see what he means.
My lunch, a plate of new creamed potatoes, fried squash, corn on the cob, and a big sweet green onion. My sister, Ruthy, brought it to me. That plate of food went through several changes, and in pretty rapid order.
It made me think about what Mr. Swain said about change and how a good story is constantly changing, pushing the reader forward page after page. All the way to the end.
The first image is the way my lunch looked when it arrived. What are your thoughts as you view the image? I had several. ‘Wow, looks good enough to eat’. My mouth watered. I had warm fuzzy feelings toward my sister. How thoughtful of her.
In the second image my stomach had about caught up with my eyes. Sigh. Now that was a satisfying lunch. Contentment.
The third image brought about more change. My sister knows I shouldn’t eat a big lunch when I’m working—whining—I’m too full to think now, I’ll have to take a nap—blame. 🙂
Thank you, Ruthy, for cooking me a wonderful lunch! And thanks to our cousin, Sue Ann, who is the gardener who grew the fresh veggies and shared with us. You’re both too good to me!
Change happens in everyday events and so it should in a story.
Cheryl St.John says that change forces our characters to adjust. Change won’t let him stand still. He must react to what is happening. Mr. Swain says to make sure the changes that happen impact the main character and his goal—box him in. Impede his goal. Give the reader something to hold his breath over, to eagerly flip another page for, and a heart-pounding reason for the reader to pull for your main character as he works toward his goal.
As you can see, I pigged out and finished every last bite of my delicious lunch.
I didn’t record the last change of my lunch saga; the dish scrubbed clean, and going home, filled with my gratitude. 🙂
May God bless all your plans and may all your changes be good,
It sounds like you’re getting something out of the book. I liked your examples.
Dani, I must have really connected with what Dwight V. Swain wrote. It’s all been said before, or rather since, he wrote about ‘showing’ nearly fifty years ago and he makes logical sense of it to my scrambled brain! Thanks for commenting. 🙂
I like this – the comparisons make me smile.
Thank you, Marsha! I like making comparisons when food is involved!! 🙂 I’m enjoying the book by Dwight Swain.
Loved your comparison. I’ll certainly get this book to read. 🙂
Jenny, I can’t tell you how much I’m enjoying Dwight Swain’s book. I read a few pages and then run to correct things in my current WIP. 🙂 I’ll never get through it!! But I’ve learned so much!! You do have to think about it at times.
Just enjoyed reading your blog – even if I am a week late getting to it. (:
Hey, Sandy, that’s okay, I subscribe to that old adage ‘better late than never!:-)