|Author Julie Musil|
I recently binge-watched The Tudors. Netflix describes the series like this: “All the splendor and scandal of England’s 16th-century royal court comes to life in this series that follows notorious Tudor monarch Henry VIII.”
In The Tudors, a situation arose where the king’s chancellor disagreed with the religious teachings of a Mr. Fish. As Miranda Lambert would say, “Somethin’ bad about to happen.” Mr. Fish’s punishment? He’d be burned at the stake. But the storytellers wouldn’t show it, right? Wrong.
The scene opens with Mr. Fish bound to the stake. Kindling is stacked against him. He’s given the chance to recant his statements about the church. Instead of recanting, he begins reciting The Lord’s Prayer. Tension builds. A torch sets fire to the kindling. Wood crackles. Smoke rises. Mr. Fish’s voice also rises with fear. But he continues shouting The Lord’s Prayer until he succumbs to the fire.
It was a powerful, disturbing scene.
When the king later asks his chancellor how many people had been burned at the stake so far, the chancellor calmly says, “Six.” Like it’s no big deal. After witnessing the scene, I felt those six deaths stronger than I would’ve had they just said “Six” without showing it. This scene was a great reminder to slow down and show pivotal details of important scenes.
In my recent release, The Summer of Crossing Lines, there’s a scene that was especially difficult to write. It involved a dog fight. I’m a huge dog lover. I have two rescue doggies at home (both of them are snuggled against my feet right now). At first I was tempted to gloss over the dog fight after it had happened, but I knew I had to show it. The reader would better understand the people my character Melody was dealing with if they went through this turmoil with her.
So I showed the scene in all its ugly details. The stench of blood. The cheering. The cry of a mortally wounded animal. The muffled gunshot. It makes me sad just thinking about it.
As writers, it’s sometimes easier to skip the ugly parts because they’re hard to write. But too often we’d create a barrier between the reader and the character. If we want readers to feel for our characters and root for them, it’s important that we put on our big boy pants and write the hard stuff.
I still think about Mr. Fish burning at the stake. And while not every scene can carry that kind of weight, the important scenes can...and should.
Do you have a hard time writing challenging “show” scenes? Have you ever “told” about a difficult subject because it was too traumatizing to “show”? Which scenes in books or movies were the most difficult for you to read or watch?
Media kit for THE SUMMER OF CROSSING LINES Title:
The Summer of Crossing Lines
Author: Julie Musil
Release date: August 19, 2014
Category: Young Adult (YA)
Genre: Contemporary Mystery
Short Summary: When her protective older brother disappears, sixteen-year-old Melody infiltrates a theft ring, gathers clues about his secret life, and falls for a handsome pickpocket. At what point does truth justify the crime?
Long Summary: When her protective older brother disappears, sixteen-year-old Melody loses control of her orderly life. Her stuttering flares up, her parents are shrouded in a grief-induced fog, and she clings to the last shreds of her confidence.
The only lead to her brother’s disappearance is a 30-second call from his cell phone to Rex, the leader of a crime ring. Frustrated by a slow investigation with too many obstacles, and desperate to mend her broken family, Melody crosses the line from wallflower to amateur spy. She infiltrates Rex’s group and is partnered with Drew, a handsome pickpocket whose kindness doesn’t fit her perception of a criminal. He doesn’t need to steal her heart—she hands it to him.
With each law Melody breaks, details of her brother’s secret life emerge until she’s on the cusp of finding him. But at what point does truth justify the crime?
Author Bio: Julie Musil writes from her rural home in Southern California, where she lives with her husband and three sons. She’s an obsessive reader who loves stories that grab the heart and won’t let go. Her YA novels The Summer of Crossing Lines and The Boy Who Loved Fire are available now. For more information, or to stop by and say Hi, please visit Julie on her blog, on Twitter, and on Facebook.
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