Welcome to Thursday, Friday eve. It seems these summer weeks are just slipping by. I am glad that I have had a run of good reads lately, and today's book is no exception. I adore a solid, tight thriller, but haven't read one in awhile. My last few were disappointing. I was thrilled when I picked up Kate Moretti's Binds That Tie. This was a page turner full of twists, turns, shocks and more. I highly recommend this one if you are looking for a book that will keep you glued to the pages, I also loved Ms. Moretti's first book, Thought I Knew You. Grab both and set aside some time. I am pleased to have Kate here today sharing her thoughts on writing, but first, let me introduce Kate to all of you:
Kate Moretti lives in Pennsylvania with her husband, two kids, and a dog. She’s worked in the pharmaceutical industry for ten years as a scientist, and has been an avid fiction reader her entire life. She enjoys traveling and cooking, although with two kids, a day job, and writing, she doesn’t get to do those things as much as she’d like. Her lifelong dream is to buy an old house with a secret passageway. You can find Kate on her blog, Facebook,Twitter and Goodreads.
Here is Kate:
Including Sensory Detail: Show versus Tell
If you’re a writer, it’s a phrase you’ve heard a million times: Show don’t tell. If you’re new at the craft (even if you’ve been writing for years and trying to hone your craft) that can seem like gimmicky, showboating advice. An experienced know-it-all spouting off some tired trope that means nothing, right? Not so fast.
If you’re a reader, not a writer, you probably don’t quite understand what this means, and furthermore, you might not care. But reading a story too heavy in “tell” is like the Supreme court talking about pornography: you’ll know it when you see it. If you’re reading a story and just not “feeling it”, you can’t connect with the main character, picture the setting, or your mind keeps wandering, chances are you are reading too much “tell”.
As a writer, I’ve struggled with the skill of “showing”. I’ve had long talks with my editor about it means and how to fix it. For example:
The room smelled good and was decorated beautifully.
This sentence gives us nothing specific at all. What room? What exactly does it smell like – “good” means a myriad of things to different people. Beautifully is incredibly subjective.
The kitchen smelled like freshly baked cookies and laundry and reminded me of home. The marble countertops gleamed, spattered black and white, and the stainless steel oven sat waiting for the next batch of bread. On the countertop perched a white, ceramic bowl of lemons, a bright yellow contrast to the modern white cabinetry.
The reason so many writers skimp on show is because it’s so hard. The second example took me five minutes to write and has three times as many words. It’s descriptive, evokes some kind of mood and as a reader, we can visualize the setting. It also leads us, as readers, to other avenues: what kind of person lives in a kitchen like this? We’re led to believe a baker, someone neat and organized, with a stylistic flair.
In the first example, there are no senses engaged. Yes, we use the word “smell” but we also use the word “good”. Good means nothing to anyone. My toddler thinks her feet smell good, but I’m reasonably sure this kitchen does not smell like feet. In the second example, however, I can imagine fresh baked cookies and laundry and to me, that does smell like someone’s home. I can visualize the lemons, a pop of yellow against the black and white. If, as a reader, you are particularly imaginative, you could even possibly imagine touching the cool marble.
Writers, are you still a tad confused? Here’s my cheat sheet of removing the tell. I still struggle, three books in, to ensure my readers are fully engaged:
- Easy first step: get rid of a lot of the words feel, thought, wondered. Some of this is easy: “I wondered how the car ended up on the other side of town” Versus “How did the car end up on the other side of town?” One is telling us the character is thinking, the other is showing us her thoughts (don’t overdo the questions, though). Another example: “I thought about how my mom used to call the doctor for pimple, I never thought she’d get cancer” vs. “My mom used to call the doctor for a pimple, no one ever thought she’d get cancer”. Don’t tell us your character is thinking, just show us their thoughts.
- Engage all the senses. Make sure that as you go, you incorporate smell, touch, color, flavor (if appropriate), as much as you can. Obviously, there can be too much of a good thing and no one likes to read a list of smells and sounds, but make sure to be specific. Good and bad are not descriptive words. Wonderful and beautiful are vague in most instances.
- An easy way to turn a tell into a show is to use a simile or metaphor. “She held the mouse in her hand” versus “She cupped her hands like a clamshell around the gray, twitching mouse”. This is an easy little cheat that brings vibrancy and imagery to your writing.
- Avoid adverbs. YES. This one again. It’s a rule for a reason! Are all adverbs bad all the time? No, not at all. In my example above, I used the adverb “freshly.” I could make that sentence arguably (see what I did there?) better without it:
The kitchen smelled like baked cookies, hot and fresh from the oven, and laundry. It smelled like home. The marble countertops gleamed, spattered black and white, and the stainless steel oven sat waiting for the next batch of bread. On the countertop perched a white, ceramic bowl of lemons, a bright yellow contrast to the modern white cabinetry.
A better example of removing an adverb might be: “She ran clumsily down the road” versus “She stumbled and fell as she ran down the road, desperate in her attempt to escape.” Obviously, the second sentence paints a more descript picture.
Is it necessary to replace all tell? Nope. I try to aim for sixty/forty. If you full describe and engage all the senses and avoid adverbs in every sentence, your prose would become rambling and wordy. Sometimes, it’s vital to get to the action, and take the shortest, well-traveled path there. But proceed with caution. You know what they say about the road less traveled.
Also, try to avoid clichés (but that’s a post for another time).
A huge thanks to Kate for stopping by today and sharing her thoughts, it just goes to show that there is more to writing than meets the eye. A very informative post! Kate is offering a chance to win an ebook copy of Binds That Tie to one winner. Fill out the Rafflecopter after reading Contest Policies. Open Internationally.
Here is my review:
Binds That Tie by Kate Moretti
Maggie never felt as though she belonged until Chris Stevens showed her what true happiness meant. Ten years into their marriage, miscarriages and infidelities have scarred them both. Despite their perfect-couple image, Maggie can’t look at Chris with anything but resentment. When a charismatic stranger offers the opportunity for a little harmless flirtation, she jumps into the game.
But charm soon turns to malice, and a deadly split-second decision forces Maggie and Chris onto a dangerous path fraught with secrets, lies, and guilt. With no one else to turn to—no one she dares trust—Maggie will ultimately learn just how binding marital ties can be.
Paperback, 340 pages
Published March 2014 by Red Adept Publishing
Four and a half Stars: A riveting thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat.
Maggie texts Chris wanting to make dinner plans, but no surprise, he doesn't answer back. So instead, Maggie heads to the local night club to join her two best friends. When a man approaches her, she revels in his attention and even though she tells him she is married, he starts flirting with her. What harm can there be in a little flirting? Before long, the flirting escalates and Maggie and Chris' fragile marriage is once again challenged when things turn deadly. Can Maggie and Chris stick together through thick and thin?
What I Liked:
- Wow! It has been so long since I read a good solid psychological thriller that kept me engaged and entertained right up until the final pages. This is stunning book with so many twists and surprises. You won't know who to trust or who to believe. If you enjoy solid thrillers this is a must read. I was reminded just a touch of one of my all time favorite thrillers: Gone Girl while reading this one as it presents unsympathetic characters and a plethora of shocking developments.
- I enjoyed the complexity of the characters. Maggie and Chris are both troubled and deeply flawed people. At first, I sided with Maggie as she comes across as the victim in the troubled marriage. After several miscarriages and an affair, she is still hanging in there hoping to turn things around with their marriage, but then the unthinkable happens..... Chris, on the other hand, starts out as the bad guy. He is the one who wasn't completely supportive during Maggie's pregnancy issues and he was the one who cheated. When the big conflict happens, I thought the two would draw closer together, and they do for a time. Then things shift, and surprisingly, I found myself siding with Chris. I liked that this book pulls back the layers and layers of each character and shows all their flaws. Both characters will drive you crazy at times, and you will change your mind several times before you draw your final conclusion. Along with Maggie and Chris, you have a cast of secondary characters who are just as complex. At first, I thought that Jake was the good guy, and while for the most part, he was, there were plenty of flashbacks and such that showed his flaws and mistakes. I liked that all of characters had good and bad sides, and that I never knew what was coming next from anyone.
- I loved all the portions of the book pertaining to the trial and pretrial hearing. There were so many shocking developments during this part that there was never a dull moment. I liked how well researched and realistic this section was. I could tell that Ms. Moretti had done her homework in order to make this as believable as possible, and in the end she pulls it off. If you love tight, legal thrillers this is one to read.
- This a true psychological thriller from beginning to end. It is shocking, riveting and fast paced. This is the type of book that you need to set aside plenty of time for as you won't want to put it down once you start. This is my second book by Ms. Moretti, and once again she has proven to me what a talented and skilled writer she is. I will continue to read anything she writes. For those of you who enjoy solid thrillers, read either one of her books!
And The Not So Much:
- I was a tiny bit let down by the ending. There is so much buildup headed into that final chapter. My head was spinning, and in all honesty, I wasn't sure what I wanted to happen. The final pages left me hanging, as it ends open ended. I wanted more. Could the story really be over?
- I was completely intrigued by all the pretrial stuff. There are some jaw dropping surprises and revelations during these chapters. I loved all the legal stuff. However, I was disappointed that there was so much focus on the pretrial hearing and then the actual trial was glossed over. I wanted to follow up on so of those stunning revelations that occurred during the pretrial and see them argued out in court in more detail.
- I wished that there was just a tad bit more on Maggie's background. There was some obvious issues resulting from her childhood. I wanted to learn more about her parents, I wasn't even sure what her father did. I was left with many unanswered questions as far as this part of the story went.
- I wanted more of Chris after the trial. I would love to see how he accomplished his task regarding Maggie and what his plans were. I really think there needs to be a second book!
Binds That Tie is an example of a psychological thriller done right. I was completely hooked from the first pages until the shocking finale. This is a book that shows what happens when a once happy marriage goes sour and the fall out afterwards. If you are a fan of books like Gone Girl, I would highly recommend this title. Ms. Moretti is one talented gal. Grab this one and while you are at it, get your hands on Thought I Knew You, her other outstanding title.
"Forgiveness is a skill one learns only be being deeply hurt."
"You can't change the past, but you can change how your past impacts your future."
I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own and I was not compensated for this review.