Don’t Write The Story

In a recent taekwondo class I was instructing the students in the single bahng mahng ee form. For those of you who can’t read Korean, that is the single stick. The form is lengthy and complex. I’ve told my students many times (and I apologize to the creator of this form) that I think the single stick is boring. Or rather, I have seen too many times boring forms performed by competitors at tournaments. I mean, you are wielding a stick and I don’t care if it has a cool looking dragon on it, you’re basically waving around a plastic tube in the air. It’s not like the nun-chuck or the long staff or even the sword. It’s a stick.

What makes for an exciting weapons form are two aspects – attitude and proper technique.

I have seen too many students just get up at tournament or in class and start going through the motions. They have the same attitude I sometimes have – hey, I’m waving around a stick. Whoopee!

Well, it’s the student’s attitude that makes it boring. I want to see excitement, I want to see intensity. I want to see the invisible opponent being struck and blocked and disabled. To see the expression on the student’s face which tells me he or she is living in the moment. I want to see ATTITUDE, baby! Don’t just go through the motions, show me a performance worth my attention.

In this recent class, I was helping students memorize this form, however, they were trying to memorize the moves. I told them, “Stop memorizing the moves. Memorize the technique.”

See, I can do a front kick. I can lift my foot and kick out. That’s a front kick. It’s may not look very good, but it’s a kick. However, a properly executed front kick includes the following: eyes on target, hands up for balance, proper pivot of base foot, proper target of kicking foot, proper height of knee on chamber, striking with correct part of foot, proper re-chamber after kick, set down. Balance, body position, power. All of these are part of the technique of a front kick.

So when I was showing the students the form, I wanted them to memorize and execute proper technique because if they memorize just the moves, then their bodies will memorize improper technique. I’ve seen it happen time and again with my own practice. If I just go through the motions because, “Well, I know the form.” then I’m going  to do something incorrectly. My foot will be turned wrong in a stance, the arms will move improperly when blocking, etc. Proper technique is key.

“So what,” you’re saying, “does this karate stuff have to do with writing?”

First off, it’s taekwondo. Lol.

Second off, I think the same principles of attitude and technique hold true for writers.

Attitude: Do you WANT to write? Do you ENJOY the writing process? Or are you just going through the motions because you feel an obligation. What’s your attitude when writing? Are you living in the moment? Are you in that Zone where you are groovin’ and shakin’ and the words are flowing like honey? If you’re frustrated or struggling or exasperated or tired, then it will show in your writing.

Proper technique: Don’t write the story. Write the aspects of the story. Write the highs and lows of chapters. Use proper grammar/punctuation/spelling at all times (except when breaking this rule is part of the story). Know and show character development. Use proper language for the book and for each character and don’t make me reach for the dictionary every five minutes. Be aware of the ‘ly’ and ‘ing’ words. Show me the story, don’t tell it to me. I want to imagine the story as a series of images in my mind. Write the beginning, middle and end of the story, reconciling the problems, changing the lives of the characters. Show me a story worth my attention and time.

If you concentrate on the technique of the story, then the story itself will be better. If you’re just trying to tell a story, then I may not understand it, or become confused…or be bored out of my skull and move on to something else.

I attend tournaments to have fun, to help others have fun and to watch some cool performances of forms, sparring and weapons because those competitors have worked hard to be their best. When I pick up a book, I expect to be entertained and to enjoy a good story because the author knows his/her stuff (ahem, technique).

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