May 31, 2014

Guest Post: Shana Festa

I love zombie books, and I love helping out friends in the literary world. Shana Festa is near-legendary in the book review community, and she's been kind enough to take on Undead America and host me on her blog, The Bookie Monster. Now she's got her own zombie series set to release TOMORROW, and I'm excited to have her here to talk writing (and offer some great advice) and, of course, zombies!!!

Thanks, Shay, for stopping by!!

Show vs. Tell – The Importance of beta readers for new writers
By Shana Festa, author of the Time of Death series

When I received the request to create a guest post, I immediately knew what I wanted to share with readers, because it is an issue I faced as a new writer. If you’ve heard my name before, it’s because I write and review horror…specifically the zombie genre. I guess you could say it’s where my heart is.

As I got further into TIME OF DEATH: INDUCTION, I asked a few authors to beta read through my work and tell me if I had anything worth finishing. Thankfully, the consensus was a resounding YES. But a few times I received the feedback of “show, don’t tell”. I scratched my head a bit on this and found it to be the most challenging aspect of writing. I needed to figure out how to convey a scene without just merely putting words on a piece of paper, but doing so in a way that allowed the reader to form a mental picture of what was happening.

So I got to work on making some edits. Before editing, I had written:

We hit the bridge, Seth making some wild hand gestures I didn’t understand.

After ruminating over the suggestion; my one liner morphed into this:

The entrance of the bridge loomed before us like a gaping mouth. Seth’s hands began moving in rapid succession like he was having a Tourette’s attack in sign language. With eyes so intensely focused on the group, his hands moved like he was cranking a handle. This was answered with a thumbs-up from the men. So, I followed suit, deducing this must be him asking if we were ready to move. 

He shimmied up about ten feet and pancaked himself behind a minivan, looked around and patted his head. He pointed at Sanchez and brought his thumb to his eye like he was looking through a spyglass. The group, myself included just following the leader again, moved up to Seth and stopped. Only Sanchez continued past him, crouched low and weapon at the ready. 

Seeing my obvious confusion, Seth then tugged his ear, patted his forearm, made a finger-twirling motion, and followed it up by sticking his finger up his nose. I was totally lost; I could almost feel the question mark bouncing over my head. Every man in uniform had a shit-eating grin on their face, attempting to maintain composure and not laugh. Mouth agape, I snapped my head back to Seth with the realization that he was completely messing with me. He stood there, hands on hips, and chest puffed out in pride at his little practical joke. I won’t lie. It was damn funny. Completely the wrong time, but a well needed tension breaker.

The second version paints a much more vivid image for the reader. Showing something to a reader instead of just spitting out words engages the reader’s imagination. A writer may have a clear picture in their mind as they write, but often times it may fall flat with the assumption that a reader will know what’s in your head. Not the case. 

Having multiple eyes on your work along the way will help writers hone their story to something that leaves a reader with less questions and makes for a more well-rounded story.

I learned (very quickly) that friends and family do not make good beta readers. No matter how much you tell them to give it to you straight, they won’t. The have an intimate connection with you as a person and have difficulty being impartial. This translates into you just having your ego bolstered and, in the long run, will only hurt the quality of your work but also the end result: a successful piece of fiction that readers will love and relate to.

Spread the Plague. Read Time of Death: Induction

See you on the other side!



For more information on TIME OF DEATH and Shana Festa, see:

The Bookie Monster Facebook:

And finally, the TIME OF DEATH Release Party on Facebook, at which she'll give away prizes of hundreds of books (including Undead America)!!!!! 

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