Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Inspiration - The Magic Treehouse (really!)

I'm always looking for ways to improve my writing and I am addicted to writing tips. There's a lot of useful advice out there: cut the adjectives, focus on the action, show don't tell.

Unfortunately, I sometimes find it hard to put the advice into practice. That's why I focus on examples of good writing technique when I read.

Last night I found one while reading a bedtime story to my kids. Take a look:

Basho looked up. A smile crossed his dirty, weathered face. "I looked for you by the river, but didn't see you!" he said. "I am glad you are safe."
"We're glad you're safe, too," said Jack.
"But your castle! Your castle burned down," said Annie.
"Yes. It burned before the miracle of the rain," said Basho, sighing.
Jack and Annie sat on the log next to him. Through the smoky drizzle, they all stared at the rubble. Trees and plants dripped with rain. A pigeon cooed.
For a long moment, no one spoke. Then Annie broke the silence. "I'm glad you still have your banana tree," she said. "I like the sound of the rain falling on the leaves."
Basho looked up, but didn't say anything.
"Yeah, and I like the sound of the river," said Jack. "It's louder now since the rain came."
"Basho tilted his head as if listening to the rain on the leaves of the banana plant and to the steady rushing sounds of the river: His face softened. "Yes, I like those things, too," he said. He held up his wooden box. "And I still have my poems."

The author is Mary Pope Osborne and the book is Dragon of the Red Dawn. Yes, it's a Magic Treehouse book. The books are big favorites of the 5-8 year old crowd. It's not even Young Adult! It may even be described as Geriatric Toddler.

Still, it follows all the rules: few adjectives, focus on the action, show don't tell. Even though the characters are just sitting, it feels like a lot is happening. I like that. Show don't tell is easy to follow when there's a lot of action. The rule is harder to follow when writing emotionally charged scenes like this one.

Have you found writing inspiration in unexpected places? Please share!