Saturday, January 10, 2015

Judge Training 105



Unique voice or strong writing style

Shows the story rather than tells

Point of view (POV) easily understood, not distracting

Good balance between dialogue, narration, and introspection

Grammar, punctuation, and spelling are professional (do not deduct for minor errors)


Since EVER AFTER  is a movie, this is harder to apply…but imagine…

                      Unique voice or strong writing style
Ask an editor to give a definition of a writer’s voice and they’ll stumble for the descriptive words. Voice is that “sparkle” that makes a reader want more. It’s that indefinable element that makes the same old Cinderella story shine like a glass slipper. It gives the reader something to relate to, to identify with, to completely suspend their disbelief and immerse themselves in the story. It’s what the reader connects to an author.

EXAMPLE IN EVER AFTER: Picture a different actor in the role of The Prince. Let’s say…John Wayne. Even a young John Wayne, handsome and dashing as an Air Force pilot or cowboy, well, with a slight French or British accent--something would have been “off.” You want to believe, but something holds you back. We don’t imagine a cowboy in that role.

PERSONAL EXPERIENCE: I have to draw upon my own writing and experience for this section. I have a very strong writing style OR “voice”. I deliberately use sentence fragments. Deliberately use short sentences. Deliberately do a lot of grammar rule breaking. But it works. Sometimes it worked for contest judges, and other times...they just didn’t get it. What a good judge will do is to evaluate the writing style to see if it’s working. Instead of quoting grammatical rules.
     *If you’re enjoying the story...then it’s working.
     *If you keep stopping, or have a hard time following the story...then it’s not working. Which is actually harder to pin down. But the next three questions help you evaluate.

                      Shows the story rather than tells
GRAMMAR DIVAS has 4 easy ways to show rather than tell. Their article is available upon request and may be passed on.

EXAMPLE IN EVER AFTER: Movies are great examples of showing. The actors have to show everything. Most of the time the audience only sees emotions and doesn’t get the motivation or introspection. The written word allows the reader to experience so many additional experiences. In EVER AFTER a good scene is how Danielle is gathering food, looks at her hands and sees the dirt, then decides to wash in the river. Not a word is spoken. All the emotion of just wanting more from that moment (and life) is there on Danielle’s face. An example of telling: if they’d skipped showing the audience that scene, had skipped ahead to after the river and she’d TOLD her step-sister that she’d been dirty and decided to wash. It’s non-active and not attached to any emotion.

                      Point Of View easily understood, not distracting                 
Simply put, is the changing POV (or lack of changing) distracting you as a reader. Many times, I explain to the contestant that I’m not a POV purist, but “head hopping” normally doesn’t allow me to invest enough emotion with one character for a long period of time. In other words, the job of the author is to make me connect with the characters, and if I’m not in their POV long enough to connect...then it’s not working.
     Other times, the changing POV doesn’t matter. Mainly because the author has spent time developing the characters, there’s something about their POV style that allows me to recognize their character--therefore, their POV is recognizable and I don’t have to “think” about who’s “talking.”

EXAMPLE IN EVER AFTER: Personally, I thought the balance of scenes between all the characters was good (it’s one of my favorite movies). But imagine if two-thirds of film had been from Danielle’s POV. Or if the step-mother’s POV had been left out and we didn’t know about her desire to make her daughter a Princess? Something would have been off. Too much information or Not Enough. Perhaps the story of the Three Bears would have been a good example? JUST RIGHT is easily recognizable because it works.

                      Good balance between Dialogue, Narration, Introspection
What’s the appropriate amount of balance? Each story is unique and has its own answer. Simply put, if you start skipping/skimming description or narration to get to the dialogue...well, the balance is off.

EXAMPLE IN EVER AFTER: Narration. Perhaps an example of too much Narration has the Queen who appeared in the first scene narrating throughout the entire film, interpreting what the audience had just seen OR was about to see.

EXAMPLE IN EVER AFTER: Dialogue. J Even though this film is a favorite, there are a couple of lines I really wish the writers or fact checkers had re-thought: “Money to burn” --when they didn’t use printed money. And “Lost your marbles” --this term is American and originated in the 19th century.  Those two lines pop me right out of the story.

                      Grammar, Punctuation, Spelling (don’t deduct for minor errors)
Manuscript preparation and professional impact. Several years ago, when revising the score sheets for the Great Expectations contest, we decided to concentrate on the story. We realized that the professionalism of manuscript preparation was important too, but we reduced it down to one quarter of the total points scored in this section. Please refer to your judging tips regarding spelling errors and our suggestions on how to score.

As always, if you have questions relating specifically to an entry, contact

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Angi Morgan                          
                   WEST TEXAS WATCHMEN
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