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The Art of War for Writers by James Scott Bell

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For scenes to move
with deliberate speed, the
writer must grasp the truth
behind RUE.
RUE stands for Resist the Urge to Explain. You’ll fi nd
it in several writing books and all over Internet writing
sites. For some, RUE means avoiding excess exposition.
For others, its another way of saying show, dont tell.
Both are valid observations.
When you can cut exposition, do it. Readers like mys-
tery, and they will allow you to hide information so long
as the action is moving along. Put off explanations for
as long as possible. Only use what is absolutely essential
to the understanding of the moment.
You all know about showing versus telling, so watch for
all those little explanatory phrases that can so easily sneak
into your scenes. This is best illustrated by example.
I ran through the forest, my heart pounding.
I could hear the bloodhounds behind me, and the
lawmen shouting instructions.
I dug deep for air and willed my feet to move.
Then skidded to a stop.
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156
Two feet ahead of me was a cliff.
This was terrible. Dogs behind me and a drop
in front.
Spinning around, I saw the glint of a gun in
the woods.
The RUE lines are: “This was terrible. Dogs behind
me and a drop in front.” The fi rst line tells the reader
what he already feels because of the action.
The second line repeats information already given.
Without those lines, the scene would read:
I ran through the forest, my heart pounding.
I could hear the bloodhounds behind me, and the
lawmen shouting instructions.
I dug deep for air and willed my feet to move.
Then skidded to a stop.
Two feet ahead of me was a cliff.
Spinning around, I saw the glint of a gun in
the woods.
Much better. The tension does not abate, and the
reader is experiencing the action along with the narrator.
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