Friday, January 03, 2014

Writing: R.U.E.

As I resume this blog after a very pleasant holiday hiatus, I thought about all the rules we writers have to learn and wondered if I should talk about them here. Then my wife gave me a perfect example of one that's easy to say and hard to do: R.U.E.

I first heard this from then editor/now agent Karen Ball in a writing class at Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference. I have to admit that I had no idea what R.U.E. meant until someone in the class muttered "Resist the urge to explain." Later I read this quotation: "Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass." That is actually a hybridization of the advice given by famed writer Anton Chekov, and it is a good summary of R.U.E.--show, don't tell.

Last week, Kay was leaving to stay with our granddaughter, who lives with her father just a few blocks away. As she was getting into the car, I said, "Remember, call if you need anything." Kay looked at me, cocked her head, and said, "R.U.E." In other words, my actions to that point had always made it clear that I'd help when she needed it. There was no need to tell her. I'd already shown her.

Even though I've been writing for some years now, I still have to guard against telling rather than showing. Writers, is it a problem for you? Readers, do you sometimes skim over parts of a book when the author is telling, rather than showing? I'd like to know.

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