Show vs. Tell #RRBC #RWISA

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything related to the craft of writing and this is a subject that we all can use a refresher on. So, if it’s redundant, I apologize. I still see this over and over again, especially with Indie writers. So, for what it’s worth, here we go.

Don't Tell me

If you wonder how can I show something, ask yourself; how do I notice she is quick, he is happy, it is big?

  • Don’t tell me the story…show me, using your words.
  • Place the reader INTO the story. This is especially important in first person POV—but also equally important in third.
  • Use the senses to bring the reader along for the ride. Sight, Sound, Touch, Taste, Smell.
  • Be specific and creative.

For example…One might describe a love interest this way. This is Telling:

  • I watched Jack walk into the room. He was hot; maybe the best looking boy I’d ever seen.

Rewriting the scene by using specificity and the senses, here’s showing:

  • Jack didn’t walk into the cafeteria. He swaggered like the Mayor of Westfield High School, as he shook hands and slapped shoulders. If there had been a baby somewhere, he would have kissed it. Normally, that sort of attitude makes my stomach turn, but not today. I couldn’t take my eyes off him. He even nodded at the lunch ladies. When he got to my table, our eyes met for the briefest of moments, and I felt like the only girl in the world.

You can add character detail, voice, and setting at the same time. This is showing.

  1. USE DETAILS (NO – It was a spooky house. YES – The house had dark windows, a doorway covered in cobwebs and an overgrown path leading up to it.)
  2. SIGNS YOU ARE TELLING – Adjectives – big, old, high  etc. and any form of the words “to be.” (She was happy. He was impatient. )
  3. USE NOUNS AND VERBS – Nouns and Verbs FORCE you to describe. (NO – He was a grumpy man. (Adjective) YES – He rarely talked and when he saw kids playing, he let out a grunt.)
  4. USE SENSES – (NO – It was a lush garden. YES – The garden bloomed with wild red and orange flowers that filled the air with a thick sweet fragrance.)
  5. DIALOGUE LINES ARE ALWAYS SHOWING – It’s the character talking, not the author.
  6. BE CAREFUL WITH DIALOGUE TAGS; THEY OFTEN TELL – It’s better to express the way the character is talking with body language. (NO – …she said jokingly. YES – …she laughed and slapped his arm.)

You don’t need to show absolutely everything, especially if it’s not important to move the plot forward. You risk the danger of being too lengthy or detailed. For example, NO three-page descriptions of the woods.

“Telling” is often used to move the action along quickly or relate necessary backstory.

However, you run the risk of “info dump” if you tell all the backstory this way.

When you “show,” you put the reader in the driver’s seat and let them “feel” the scene, emotion or action.

Use a combination of the two, to amp up your storytelling!

Tips

  1. Imagine a movie scene in your head. Write all the detail that you see. No “floating” heads of dialogue—be sure to describe where people are standing, what their hands are doing, noises in the room, where they are. Activate ALL the senses.
  2. Use Action Verbs to “show” what’s happening.
  3. Avoid using “was,” “is,” “are,” – All “To Be” words. This is Passive Voice.
  4. Consider investing in “The Emotion Thesaurus” by Angela Ackerman, AND “Emotional Beats – How to Convert Your Writing into Palpable Feelings,” by Nicholas Rossis to get a sense of how physical movement conveys emotion.

You can write your first draft by telling if that’s what you need to do to get the story down, but ramp up all the feels in your story by showing through your subsequent drafts.

Happy Writing! Happy SHOWING!

show vs tell_Mark_Twain

 

How many ways can you say ____?

I am super excited to present this workshop to the Panhandle Professional Writers Group in Amarillo, Texas next month.

Bi-Monthly Meeting
November19th

 
Jan Sikes
How Many Ways Can You Say ____?
 


“He walked.” Really? Do you know there are over 115 ways to describe the way a person walks? Why should you limit yourself to using the same words over and over? The same is true with voice descriptions and many other modes of communication we must rely on in telling a story.

In this presentation, Jan will explore various active verbs that can take the place of the passive and draw a better picture in a reader’s mind of what the characters are doing. When you master this, it will take your writing to a new level of excitement both for you, the author, as well as the reader.

In her talk, she’ll show techniques to prevent your writing from becoming mundane and stale. Using the same phrases and descriptions are ruts we all fall into because we’re too rushed, too tired, or often—let’s face it—too lazy. Bring pen and paper for the interactive exercises. Jan plans to present this program in a fun and upbeat way using the Emotion Thesaurus as well as other reference material. Handouts will accompany her talk.

The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression will be referred to frequently during this presentation as well as other resources authors may find helpful. A PowerPoint presentation will be used in conjunction with printed material.

Jan is a multi-published, award-winning author of an exciting series about her life with her country singer/performer husband, Rick Sikes. She’s a member of the Texas Association of Authors and is heavily involved with the Texas Musicians Museum in Irving. In addition to writing books, she writes songs, poetry, short stories, and is currently working on a novel with paranormal elements.

Meeting Times:
Check-In and
Meet & Greet
9:30 – 10:00 a.m.
Business Meeting
10:00 a.m. – 10:15 a.m.
Morning Session
10:15 a.m. – 12:15 p.m.
Box Lunch
12:15 – 1:00 p.m.
Critique Session
1:00 – 3:00 p.m.
For information regarding how to join PPW and membership dues, see “Membership” link on left side of this page.
 
Non-members: There is a $10 guest fee to attend our bi-monthly programs.  If you join that day, the guest fee will be credited toward your membership fee.  There is a $1 guest fee for middle school and high school students.  At bi-monthly meetings held at the Amarillo Senior Citizens Association, members of Amarillo Senior Citizens Association may attend those meetings free of charge. If a member invites you attend a program as their guest, the guest fee for that program will be waived.  However, if you attend subsequent programs, we will ask you to either pay the guest fee or become a member.