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The Moon is Round

We don’t have cable, or even satellite TV at our house. So when my wife and I travel and stay in a hotel, we sample the channels we normally don’t miss anyway. After a day at a writing conference recently, I was getting ready for bed when I became aware of some truly dreadful dialogue coming from the television and naturally stopped to watch some of it.

This movie, “Dragon Seed (1944),” is one of those old movies set in China that actually featured no Asian actors. Katherine Hepburn starred with an otherwise good cast. But with their eyes pulled back in an effort to make them look authentic, it was sadly comic. These male characters–I suppose they were some kind of village elders or wise men–were philosophizing about their Occidental counterparts around the globe when I turned to look.

Beginning writers are bombarded with rules. “Show, don’t tell.” “Write in active sentences.” “Watch your POV.” You know the drill. One of them, the “as you know” rule is one of my favorites. “As you know, John Andrews, your mother, a female aged sixty five years, died one year ago tonight while you held her hand.” All this to give the reader some information the writer can’t figure out how to get in via the story. The idea solidified for me while I watched this movie.

The two old men were strolling along. One looked at the ground beside him and said, “It seems my shadow will follow me home tonight.”

Setting the scene, not too bad. But wait.

His companion looked above and answered, “Yes, the moon is round and the color of a peach.”

Like his friend couldn’t see it? He could see his shadow. I was finished with the movie. I’ve put books down for similar reasons.

Now, so maybe other folks won’t put down my work, I need to make sure I’m not describing the obvious, too.

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Categories: writing Tags: , , ,
  1. Bethany Valles
    September 16, 2009 at 7:35 pm

    Joe, those are great! I really appreciated the monkey story, and I humbly admit that I’m a closet whiner about “the rules.” I know you’re busy, but you should really keep this up!

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