38 of you were brave enough to post a sample of your writing last week for me to critique. As I said, I can’t critique everyone, but I’ll do a fair number. The first person to post was Yeggy, and I think being first should count for something. Here’s Yeggy’s sample:
I tried to ignore the knocking on the door. If I pretended not to be here, whoever, or whatever was giving me a headache would soon get bored and leave. My life would return to normal. But the knocking didn’t stop and my life didn’t return to normal.
I huddled further under the bedcovers and chewed viciously on my fingernails. From the moment I woke up, I knew something was wrong. The weight and texture of the blankets had been a dead giveaway. Something was terribly wrong.
Randy sez: OK, this is a mixture of showing and telling. The main issue I see here is that we are not seeing the passage of time. This feels “out of time”. That’s a symptom of telling. The solution is to rewrite it using those mighty MRUs. (For a review of MRUs, see this article.)
I’ll take a shot at rewriting the piece. (This is always hazardous, so be warned that I may end up disimproving the section. You can be the judge of that.) I’ll start by showing the implied motivation that preceded the sample. You’ll note that I always put motivations and reactions in different paragraphs.
The knocking at the door came again.
I froze, clutching my sheets and trying not to breathe. If I ignore them, they’ll go away.
I huddled further under my bedcovers. Just . . . go away!
My teeth clamped down hard on my fingernails. I tasted blood. Go away!
Knock, knock, knock, knock, knock!
The blanket felt like a sandbag, pressing me into the bed. It smelled like a wet gunny sack.
I fought the urge to puke. Something is wrong. Something is horribly, horribly wrong.
Randy sez: The above has the advantage that it’s happening in real time, blow by blow. The disadvantage is that it takes a LOT of words. That’s the nature of showing. You use a lot of words. I’m sure a literary novelist could tell all this and capture the flavor in three paragraphs, but I’m no such beast.
I’m almost afraid to ask this, but . . . did I make it better or worse? And why?
Tomorrow . . . another critique. Maybe more than one.