I was working with a new writer recently and I kept saying show me … don’t tell me. And she looked up and burst out “What the heck are you talking about? I’m telling the story, not showing you pictures.”
The lightbulb went on for me. I wasn’t explaining myself well. And then I wondered how many authors out there keep hearing “show don’t tell”, but really can’t wrap their head around it. (If this isn’t you, then you’ll probably want to just skip this post and come back Wednesday for a little more blog fun. 😀 )
Telling is saying things like:
1. She was tired.
2. He was angry.
3. The weather was bad.
You’ve simply stated the facts. You didn’t “draw” a picture with words.
If you want to engage your reader and pull them into your scene, then paint a picture with your words. Throw out adjectives and emotions and some deep point of view and let them form an image in your reader’s mind and let them draw the conclusion you stated above.
1. Bethany dragged into the house, her legs wobbling with the effort, even hefting her satchel onto the end table seemed like a Herculean task. Flopping on the couch, she let the stress of the day drain from her muscles.
See how that shows the reader so much more? Jees, I feel like I should take a nap after reading that. Bethany’s not just tired … she’s exhausted!
2. Ryan didn’t bother to knock. He pushed through the door and stalked into the livingroom. Bethany lay sprawled on the couch, her hand covering her eyes. He didn’t care. What she’d done to him at lunch was unconscionable and needed to be dealt with now.
Ummm … as a reader I’m thinking poor Bethany doesn’t want to deal with Ryan at the moment. The man is coming unglued. (But it certainly sounds like she deserves it. (Hee hee) If this scene were from her point of view she might notice his furrowed brow or red face. Showing me, the reader, his anger.
3. The wind lashed through the tree tops, rattling the windows and throwing its fury against the glass. The storm brewing outside was nothing compared to the pain and anger radiating off Ryan in waves.
And now you have the whole thing. Her tiredness, his anger and the terrible weather. But showing your reader has made things just a little more interesting. Hmm … maybe next week I’ll talk about getting them into bed … maybe. LOL!
And just to engage my visitors … boxers, briefs, or commando for your guy?