Tuesday, August 20, 2013


Sandra here with some more samples of show don't tell that she found in her own writing. Last April I wrote Show Don't Tell Part 1 and gave you examples to see the difference.

In the post “Show Don’t Tell” that I wrote in April, I used examples from Love’s Miracles that was published by Warner in 1989. In this post, I’m going to use examples from Dream Song published by Warner in 1990.

In Love’s Miracles I ended up not making that many changes. The passive voice seemed to work. But in Dream Song it definitely does NOT work and besides that it is extremely annoying.  I was planning to self-publish Dream Song this month, but when reading it, I became so annoyed at the passive redundancy that I decided I definitely need to revise first.

So all this month, I’ve been pondering about why passive voice worked in Love’s Miracles, but not in Dream Song. Here is what I came up with and whether its on target or not is only my guess, but it makes sense to me.

Love’s Miracles is a character driven psychological drama. The characters are so deep and you become so involved in their emotions, that you don’t notice what voice you are reading. There isn’t really much happening physically, but the emotional drama is deep and draws you in.

Dream Song is a romantic suspense. The characters have depth, but a suspense involves a lot of action and screams for active voice. The passive thoughts upon the characters emotions drag down the action and in my opinion became annoying. I truly wanted to throw the book against the wall, but I was reading it on the flight to Atlanta so refrained.  smile

I love the characters in Dream Song so you would think that there would be the same depth as in Love’s Miracles.  I grew up in the Southwest and was very interested in the Native American tribes. I romanticized their culture and admired the godly premises of the Beautyway. Hubby and I have explored every museum and crawled through every ruin we can find. I used to sit in moqui caves and picture the villages full of action and emotion. I always knew I wanted Native American characters in at least one of my books.

Not being Native American, I did not presume to think I could write as one as their way of viewing their world is so different than mine. So I created characters who were half Native America.  Autumn was given up for adoption at birth by her Navajo mother. Autumn was adopted and raised by the O’Niell family. They are a loving family and support her attempt to find her roots with the Navajo. Autumn gets a job on the reservation in hopes of getting to know her estranged family.

While the inner conflict is powerful, too much retrospection as was done in Love’s Miracles slows down the action. Action scenes are easier to deal with when revising. But the emotional elements are more subtle when changing them from passive to active. Let me show you some examples. (Red=old version,  purple=revised)

“I say something profound like that, yet here I am fighting to win a place in the hearts of the clan. Strange that I need that identity.”
His brow furrowed slightly. “Why do you need them? You have a family who cares for you. It’s not like you were deprived. In fact, you probably were much better off where you were. The infant mortality rate is high on the reservation.”
“I think every child who is adopted wants to know his or her real family—why she was given away.”
“It isn’t always because you weren’t wanted.”
“Isn’t it?” She searched his expression, trying to determine if he really cared or was just caught by pity.
“There are many reasons people do what they do.”
Several thoughts came to mind, but now was not the time to reflect on them. Some required digging in musty corners that she wasn’t prepared to touch, and she wasn’t about to expose them to the ridicule of a man who could hurt her. She shrugged. “Who knows? I’m sure you don’t care.”
“Try me.”
Sincerity sounded in the gravelly tones, but she had the feeling he was as surprised by it as she. For a moment she was tempted to ask him why. That answer would lead to more questions, such as, why did he treat her with such disdain when they’d had a beautiful relationship growing between them? She wasn’t in the mood to discuss it. Nor was it the time or place.
“Look, I need to check on a few things for Dr. Davidson,” she told him. “I have to get back to work.”

In this example there are several subtle uses of passive voice as well as a couple of obvious uses that I mentioned in the April post.

Obvious uses are the adverbs and the use of the verbs to be, could, and ing verbs.  (I hope Grammar Queen doesn’t catch my use of slang here. LOL)

His brow furrowed slightly.
He frowned.

Some required digging in musty corners that she wasn’t prepared to touch, and she wasn’t about to expose them to the ridicule of a man who could hurt her.

Not prepared to dig in musty corners nor expose them to hurtful ridicule.

The subtle uses of passive voice are more difficult to ferret out. Too much verbiage slows down the action and is especially notable in suspense.

“I say something profound, yet I fight to win a place in the hearts of the clan. Strange that I need that identity.”
He frowned. “Why do you need them? Your family cares for you. You were better off where you were because the infant mortality rate is high on the reservation.”
“I think every child who is adopted wants to know his or her real family—why she was given away.”
“It isn’t always because you weren’t wanted.”
“Isn’t it?” She searched his expression, trying to determine if he really cared or was just caught by pity.
“There are many reasons people do what they do.”
Several thoughts came to mind, but not prepared to dig in musty corners nor expose them to hurtful ridicule, she shrugged them aside. “Who knows? I’m sure you don’t care.”
“Try me.”
Did he care? The man who treated her with disdain after they’d had a beautiful relationship? Not in the mood to pursue these questions, she straightened,  “I have to get back to work, check on a few things for Dr. Davidson.”

Did you notice how I trimmed the word count in the revised passage above? Doesn’t it read smoother and at a faster pace?

Did you notice the repetition of the same idea?  It wasn’t the time or place was mentioned twice.

The last paragraph has a plenty of subtle passivity.
Sincerity sounded in his gravelly voice--   This is telling what his voice is like.
But she had the feeling--  This is telling the reader she has a feeling –
For a moment she was tempted…-- There is that verb to be again.
She wasn’t in the mood – ditto

Let’s look at some other examples:

“Whoever was here more than likely followed us to make sure we were clear of the blast. They’ll know.”
His words didn’t ease her apprehension. She grasped the turquoise nugget as the possible dangers played around in her head. One thing she felt certain of—they had to get the remaining artifacts to safety. The thought quickened her pace as she hurried the half-mile down the canyon to the kiva and Dr. Davidson. 

This scene is telling us there is apprehension and need for action. So instead of telling, this is a classic example of the need to show. Don’t tell the reader Autumn is apprehensive.  Don’t tell the reader Autumn has possible dangers playing around in her head.  Don’t tell the reader Autumn needs to get the artifacts to safety.  Show don’t tell.

“Whoever was here more than likely followed us to make sure we were clear of the blast. They’ll know.”
Autumn quickened her pace down the canyon. “We have to get the remaining artifacts to safety.” She grasped her turquoise nugget. “Only a half mile to go.”

Hopefully these few samples help to clarify the difficult concept of show don’t tell.  Please feel free to comment or share examples from your own writing.

For those who comment, Sandra will draw a winner who will receive a pound of Godiva Chocolate Raspberry coffee and a copy of LOVE'S MIRACLES.  She will also give away a copy of her latest children's books if you have a use for one.  CODY THE COYOTE sees the dogs living a great life in the campground and decides he wants to be a dog.

If you ever travel through “Color Country” you must try the Indian fry bread. You won’t be sorry. Since we are on the Navajo reservation, the women at the roadside rest are serving your choice of fry bread with honey or fry bread with beans.  Yum  And if you have time you might want to look at their jewelry and blankets.

Okay, I have had this sign I've wanted to post since I saw it in Palm Springs last winter.  I guess this post fits as well as any.  I mean it is active and to the point.


CatMom said...

Thank you for this post, Sandra! I continue working on "show don't tell" in my writing, and I sure needed your reminders.

Yes, that fry bread is yummy, and I purchased a lovely turquoise bracelet while I'm here visiting the reservation. *smile*

I am SO HAPPY that I was able to finally meet you in person last month (at RWA). I only wish you lived in Georgia. *sigh*

Thanks again for this post, and please add my name in for the drawing.
Hugs from Georgia, Patti Jo

CatMom said...

P.S. Meant to add that I LOVE that sign you posted!! So true, LOL! ;)

Marilyn Baxter said...

I'm gonna tick some of you off, I know it. But I have to say this.

Neither of those passages contained a single example of passive voice as it's grammatically defined. Passive voice is where the subject does not perform the action but has the action performed on it.


Sandra's sentence: She grasped the turquoise nugget as the possible dangers played around in her head.

The subject performs the action. She grasps the nugget.

To be passive voice it would have to read The turquoise nugget was grasped by her as the dangers played around in her head.

The nugget doesn't perform any action. Action is performed on it, therefore it is written in passive voice.

I am testy on this subject because I had a contest entry marked way down because every time I used a form of the verb to be or used an adverb, the judge circled it in red, marked it passive voice and deducted points.

Yeah, it should have been circled and marked down, but done so because it was weak writing.

Want to hear my theory? We talk about needing strong, active writing in our stories. And what's the opposite of active? That's right. Passive. So what's really meant isn't that things are written in passive voice, but in passive or weak writing.

HOWEVER, despite having my panties in an unnecessary wad over semantics, the subject of the post is spot on. I do far more telling than showing despite knowing the difference. Like so many other things, that's what revisions are for.

And I will get down off my high horse now, especially because the saddle is beginning to chafe. *grin*

I've got the kettle boiling for tea and I made scones. I even bought clotted cream when I went to World Market after visiting my grandgirls yesterday. Come and get it!

Jackie said...

Hi Sandra,

Thanks for sharing today. I think your sign is perfect.

I try to write quick paced stories, and this is really helpful.

Please add my name to the drawing. Thanks!

Ruth Logan Herne said...


Oh, this was a wonderful post, Sandra, a good, hard look at the subtle differences that make such a difference.

Good for you, re-working it!!! It would have been easy to just thrump it up on Amazon, but you didn't... and I love the flow of the prose, the quicker action of the romantic suspense.

Yay, you!!!!!


Indian Fried Bread... is that like our fried dough?

Because we need to make fried dough (which is bread dough) here soon.

Just because summer is winding down.

Love this, Sandra, and I'll have my fry bread with cinnamon sugar and drizzled honey.

Umm... may I have it now, please???



Ruth Logan Herne said...

Marilyn!!! What a good point you made.

Because you're absolutely right, it isn't the technical definition of passive voice....

But more a passive kind of writing, the telling we all try to spot.

And thank you for giving a solid definition and example of the reality behind the "passive" voice. I heard a quiz on K-Love the other day, doing questions from an 80 year old test for elementary students and one of them was to change something to active voice, and the example was just as you showed.

And I laughed at myself because we all tend to call "telling" as "passive" because it's not active.

Good take on that, and I'm sharing my fry bread with you!!!

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi PATTI JO, That bracelet looks lovely on you. What a wonderful time we had in Atlanta. Whenever I see Atlanta pop up on the weather channel, I picture the city and all the fun people I met there.

btw just finished the Georgia honey you gave me. I drizzled it on the fry bread. yum

Piper Huguley said...


Thank you for your post in this very important subject, which continues to be a major flaw in my writing.

However, there is a major flaw with this post.

Where are the pictures of the fry bread?????

This is torture, having to hear about fry bread with honey in the post and again in the comments and we cannot look at it???? For drooling purposes???

No, I have not had coffee yet. Like Ruthy, I probably need that sign as well....

Sandra Leesmith said...

Dearest MARILYN, Wow, I'm so thankful I titled the post show don't tell instead of passive versus active. LOL

I love learning something new to start my day and I have duly noted your definition.

The passages do tell though instead of show and I guess I was assuming that whenever you told instead of showed it was passive voice. I am corrected. smile Thank you.

Is it weak writing? You could call it that by today's standards, but at the time my editor loved it and Warner published it so at least someone thought it was good writing.

Judging weak versus strong writing is often a matter of taste. That is why we always tell our readers not to take comments from judges that seriously unless all of the judges mention the same thing. Often first round judges are not writers. So when you see comments that don't make sense to you it is good to ask others and do research, which is what you did.

Great going.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi JACKIE, Your name is in. Now is that excitement for a book or the coffee?? LOL

Have a great day.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi RUTHY, Isn't that sign to die for? I wanted to buy it, but it was over $100 and so I took a picture of it instead. It just looks like something a romance writer should have.

I don't know what fried dough is, but it sounds similar. Fry bread is a large flattened piece of dough similar to a flour tortilla and they deep fry it. Then you either drizzle honey on it and eat it hot or you load it with beans, lettuce, tomatoes, etc. similar to a taco.

It is quite popular in NOrthern Arizona.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Okay PIPER, I"m going to go look for some fry bread and put it in the post. You are soooo right.

I was just too tired last night when I posted this. But the thoughts of some with my coffee and your prompting has spurred me on.

Julie Lessman said...

LOL, Sandra, LOVE the sign:
Chocolate, Coffee, & Men. Some things are just better rich!

And if you have all three????


WOW ... you're right about the huge difference active voice makes in a suspense novel, but I totally agree that I was not bothered AT ALL by the passive voice in Love's Miracle -- absolutely LOVE that book!!

Now I can't wait to read Dream Song too!!

It is SO fun to see you retooling your backlist, my friend, and may they all fly off the shelves!!


Sandra Leesmith said...

PIPER go to this site and you'll see a video showing them making the Indian Fry bread at the fair.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Thanks JULIE, I love seeing your list growing as well. You are my role model-smile.

And we are blessed to have such great chocolate, coffee and men, aren't we? smile

Sandra Leesmith said...

RECIPE for Indian Fry bread from the PIoneer Woman dot com

Annie Rains said...

Thank you for the post, Sandra! I always have to correct my passive writing during revisions and make it more active!

I LOVE the sign!

Naomi Rawlings said...

Thanks for the examples, Sandra! And I totally love that sign. I need me one of them. ;-)

Sandra Leesmith said...

Morning NAOMI, Glad you enjoyed the samples. I hope they help.

That sign is a kick. I was so tempted to buy it myself.

Have a great day.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Morning ANNIE, Isn't that the truth. I think telling is much easier to write so it makes work for us when we have to find it and change it. But then revising is the fun of writing--for me anyway.

Happy writing.

Cindy Regnier said...

Can I have that sign?
I used to always write passive. Now it annoys me - like a little pet peeve. My books have been changed to deep. Too bad - I always loved show and tell - but mostly the tell part.
Thanks Sandra and Happy Birthday to Ruthie!

Sandra Leesmith said...


I know what you are saying. It is so annoying when you see the flaws in your own writing. But then revising is the fun part of writing. smile

You can have that sign. It was too expensive so I didn't buy it, but you can. It is in a shop in Palm Springs.

Julie Hilton Steele said...

Oh, on a revising mission this morning. You gave me some more things to check!


Put me in for the drawing!

Peace, Julie

Sandra Leesmith said...

Morning JULIE HS, Glad I could help. Happy writing.

And yes, your name is there. I have to ask--is it for the book or the coffee?? LOL

Jeanne T said...

This was good Sandra. I had to rush through reading this morning—it's the littles' first day of school.

I appreciate the way you shared about showing emotion. I've heard it's sometimes okay to tell the emotion in the beginning of the scene and then deepen it by showing it as the scene continues.

And I wish I could have fry bread. I've heard so much about it, but I'm pretty sure it isn't gluten free. Maybe you can enjoy some on my behalf? :)

Mary Hicks said...

I always benefit from a discussion on 'show and tell'. I understand the concept, completely.

No problem.

So why do I struggle when I sat down to write? Why is it so much easier to tell than show? Is it just me? It's all words one way or the other.
Showing is like always leaning into the wind. If you relax for a second, you're back on the road of telling!

Thank you, Sandra, drop my name in the draw box.:-)

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi Jeanne, Nope fry bread isn't gluten free nor fat free. But you can enjoy the toppings. I do that a lot when I make tacos. I skip the tortilla and pile all the goodies on lettuce. yum

Happy day. The little ones are off to school. I know they will have fun. Does that mean more writing time for you?

Happy writing.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi MARY, I guess telling is easier because we all struggle with it. I think that after awhile, it will come more naturally.

Love your leaning in the wind analogy. It is so true.

Janet Dean said...

Excellent points, Sandra! I'm guilty of tacking telling onto showing as in your example: "Sincerty sounded in the gravely tones." Not always a bad thing if not overdone. But lazy since finding a way to show his sincerty without naming it is hard! My characters read emotions in the other character's eyes. :-)

Cutest sign! Rich is in the eye of the beholder. :-)


Janet Dean said...

Marilyn, excellent definition of passive voice.

Thanks for the yummy scones and clotted cream!


Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi JANET, Great tip. I love it when a character reads emotions in the eyes of the other.

Yep, rich is truly a God thing. But the sign tickled my funny bone.

Have a super day.

Marilyn Baxter said...

Whew! Glad y'all didn't kick me out. And thank you Sandra for your kind words.

I've heard a lot of authors say they needed to re-write older books when they self-published them because of the early version told more than it showed.

And here's the sign for $14.99. Or you could just search for a photo of Bradley Cooper holding a cup of coffee and a Hershey's kiss!

I've never had fry bread, so thanks Ruthie for fixin' up a batch and sharing.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi MARILYN, Guess I should have had you write the post today. Now we can all afford the sign. Well Palm Springs isn't know for bargain shopping. LOL. That sign was for sale in this shop for over $100.

Did you see the comment to Piper. There is a link to making fry bread. It is very tasty--probably because it is fried.

Marilyn Baxter said...

Palm Springs may not be known for bargain shopping but Marilyn is known for bargain hunting!

I must get ready for work. Is it awful I'm counting the days til Labor Day? And then it's only 11 more days til I leave for Ireland!

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hey MARILYN, my in-laws would love you. They are bargain hunters to the core.

Wow, a trip to Ireland. How fun is that? Are you going for research?

Happy travels.

Mary Connealy said...

On revisions I just can't believe how often I find passive voice. It's just always there and I spend so much time fixing it and while I'm fixing it I always wonder why in the world I didn't write it correctly the first time!!!???

Mary Connealy said...

And my daughter had a pillow on her couch for years that said:

Coffee, Chocolate, Men
The Richer the Better

And then she got married and the two of them may end up rich but it'll be because they're both working hard and good for them. :)

And she also had a boss who told her, with a really big smile on his face, "Just remember, 'you can marry more in a minute than you can make in a lifetime.'"

Tina Radcliffe said...

Good Morning Seekerville.

Right now I am going to TELL NOT SHOW. Forgive me Sandra.

Announcing the

Lone Star Writing Competition


Inspirational Romance: Coordinator – Janet Nash

ADRIFT NO MORE, by Nancy Kimball, TX

HEART OF VALOR, by Natalie Monk, MS


Young Adult Romance: Coordinator – Shauna Allen


A WOLF IN THE HALLWAY, by Erica George, NJ

FEAR OF FALLING, by Megan Just, CA

Romantic Suspense: Coordinator – Sarah Andre

BLACK CAT BLUES, Jo-Ann Carson, British Colombia CAN

GUARDING JULIA, by Babette de Jongh, AL

UNTRUE BELIEFS, Veronica Forand, PA

Single Title Romance: Coordinator – Ruth Kenjura

SECOND TIME AROUND, by Kathy Ramirez, TX

THE LONG WEEKEND, by Claire Boston, Warnbro WA Australia

WALK THE LINE, by Pam Strout Champagne, ME

Fantasy, Futuristic & Paranormal: Coordinator – Robin Haseltine




Contemporary Series: Coordinator – Emmly Jane


SAVING SAM, by Kathleen Hodges, OH

SIGNS OF LOVE, by Lyndee Henderson, IL

Historical / Regency: Coordinator – Patti Macdonald

MERCY OF THE MOON, by Jennifer Taylor, FL


THE RING, by Sacha Devine, Quebec, CAN

Congratulations to all the finalists! The winners will be announced at our annual Lone Star Writer’s Conference on October 5, 2013. Guest speaker will be Donald Maass.

Sandra Leesmith said...

MARY, That is tooo funny. Yep, her boss is right. And how funny that there is a pillow with that saying on it. Here I thought I was finding something unique.

Well it is chocolate, coffee and men. Nothing unique about that. LOL

Sandra Leesmith said...


WOW do you see all the familiar names of Seeker friends. WOOOOOOO HOOOOOOOOOOO

CONGRATULATIONS finalists. Great going.

Piper Huguley said...


You are truly wearing a red cape today. Thank you for the wonderful post, the video and the recipe! Enjoy your well-deserved coffee!


Sandra Leesmith said...

Thanks PIPER, I thought you would like that video. I don't know how to post videos yet, but did get the link in. chuckle

Debby Giusti said...

Love the Southwest pics! And your great examples of how revising can tighten a work.

Congrats on the dramatic tension between the hero and heroine in Love's Miracles! You hooked me in the beginning and kept me flipping pages on my Kindle until the end!

Let us know when Dream Song is released. (Hmmmm? Passive.)

Let us know when YOU release Dream Song. (Active.)

Grabbing a huge hunk of fry bread and topping it with ground beef, avocado, lettuce and salsa! :)

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi DEBBY, You are cute. Good show of the passive versus active.

And isn't that fry bread yummy. Good choice of toppings. I might be ready for some of that myself.

Happy writing and have a great day.

Tina Radcliffe said...

Marilyn, you are spot on. I reviewed this in my post.

Power Up Your Prose with Powerful Words

Active versus Passive

There are times when passive voice is appropriate, but in general active voice is less wordy, crisper and has more energy.

"The ones you want are the active ones-the verbs that show something happening. Specifically, the verb to be is weak, in all its shapes forms and sizes."-Techniques of the Selling Writer.

"A verb in the passive voice voice contains a form of the verb "be" (am, is, are, was, were, be, being, been) plus the past participle of the main verb.

Shall, will, have, has, had, are used in addition to "be" and the past participle of a main verb in forming the future tense and the perfect tenses. Any verb that contains a form of "be" and a past participle is a passive verb."

-The Handbook of Grammar and Composition.

Miranda kicked her cheating boyfriend. (active)

Her cheating boyfriend was kicked by Miranda. (passive)

In an active sentence the subjects...ACTS! -

Tina Radcliffe said...

And I agree Sandra. You have to know the rules to break them. Cutting all weak and passive writing out also makes writing cookie cutter clone works. We'd all sound the same.

So we know the rules and break them in order to preserve our voice.

That's the downside of contests. You get those grammar cops who don't know how to judge but are simply on a witch hunt.

Vince said...

Hi Sandra:

First: I love the Big Empty. I wish I was at Four Corners right now. I can smell that fry bread.

Second; here’s my sign.

Chocolate, Coffee & Women
They all come with a PRICE

As a life long reader of thousands of books I must say that I found no problem with any of your writing examples. Writers see words while readers see the story. I think writers should spend more time making their stories better and less time genuflecting to rules of thumb.

I like telling.

Showing makes the reader work twice as hard, is open to various misinterpretations, and slows the narrative flow.

If you’re teaching me geometry, show me. If you’re telling me a story, tell me. Only mimes ‘story show’.

All the stories in the Bible are told. How do I know? The Bible tells me so.

If I can’t believe you as an author when you tell me ‘John was angry”, then why should I believe you when you tell me John slammed the door when he left the room? (Maybe he is happy and slammed the door by mistake. I do this a lot.)

Besides, you can’t show me anything without telling me you are showing me… unless it’s a video you’re making. In fact, if you are really into showing, then go make movies!

Show me just enough to keep things interesting. (Like adding dialogue in a foreign language every now and then to remind me the characters are actually speaking in that foreign language.)

I think ‘Show, Don’t Tell’ is the worse rule of thumb in all of writing. If writers would spend more time perfecting their stories and less time trying to be ‘showboats’, there’s no telling how much better all our reading experiences would become!

"Here I stand. If this be heresy, so be it."


P.S. Everyone should read Sandra’s animal books. They are the best I’ve read for both children and adult enjoyment. The illustrations are world class Disney quality. These are books that can literally show a story.

Tina Radcliffe said...

Vince, my favorite grammar quote is this:

Ending a sentence with a preposition is something up with which I will not put.

Winston Churchill

Sandra Leesmith said...

VINCE you are PRICELESS. I love your sign.

You made me laugh with your comments and examples and I needed that laugh. I like telling also. My stories are full of telling. I think its because of all the old romances i love to read.

I think you make a great point. It isn't the writing style that makes a story great. Its the universal truth behind the story and the Bible is a terrific example of that.

Thanks for the plug for my animal stories. I have been selling a lot of them this summer in the parks i travel in. They are very popular and it is because of the illustrations. Jeff West, the illustrator, used to work for Disney. He is terrific.

Courtney Faith said...

Well, we've got a little bit of controversy goin' on this mornin'. *Grin*

As a reader, I prefer to be shown because I am able to "live the story" as opposed to just reading it. If everyone just flat-out said, "She was scared, mad, hot, etc," I'd be bored out of my mind. Maybe it's the difference between a man and a woman--as a female, I want to feel what's happening.

Who knows? I just know what I like in a book. I pick show over tell.

Please enter me!

Mary Connealy said...

Vince of course you're right. Like all rules showing and telling is just about writing well or poorly.
Telling can be done well and needs to be done part of the time and is always done part of the time. We can't act everything out for heaven's sake.

I always think of the phrase, "Meanwhile, back at the ranch."

It makes me smile. That rather 'wrenching' yank back to a different place, pulling the reader to a different setting without a lot of fanfare, no showing, just telling them where they are with no nonsense and moving forward with your story.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi COURTNEY, You are right on. It would be boring if we all wrote with the same style. Editors are always on the prowl for a new voice or different writing style.

That is what makes reading so fun. We get so excited when we come across a writing style that resonates with us.

And that choice of style is soooo subjective. That is why it is tough to find the editor that loves your writing style. OFten it has nothing to do with how well you write, but if you find the editor who loves your style of writing.

Thanks for sharing and yes, your name is in there.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Good point MARY.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

I never came close to finaling in Lone Star.


I finally decided that maybe I was just too Yank for Tex and eased out the back porch door....

So I was THRILLED when these guys finaled in inspirational!!!!!! YAYAYAYAYAYAYAYAYAY!

And I love that the Lonestar has an inspy category, that means so much to us!

Congrats, girls... and I'm bringing by some fresh peach ice cream.

So sweet, creamy and just studded with enough sweet peaches to make it delectable.

There are fresh waffle cones to the left of the ice cream cooler!!!

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hey Ruthy, I placed in the Lone Star but that was so many years ago I barely remember. And it was before the days of inspy category. Hooray for that today.

And how great so many friends finaled. woo hoo

Fresh peaches. hmmmm have you been talking to Patti Jo? I bet she sent some from Florida. Pleach ice cream is one of my favorites.

Marilyn Baxter said...

Research? You bet! Research with 11 other writers plus 2 of their family members about how to have FUN!!! And if a story idea comes to me on the plane or while riding across the countryside in the motor coach then that's a little serendipity. I told my counselor it's my 40th unanniversary gift to myself.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Sorry folks had to leave for a tad bit. Played some pickleball and I was on today. Some days I really suck at it, but today I was placing those hits right on. I think the Pilates are helping.

TINA this quote by Winston Churchill: Ending a sentence with a preposition is something up with which I will not put. How funny is that?

Julie Hilton Steele said...

Either one is fine. Sandra but I am happy to buy your book!

Pickleball! News is covering that like crazy lately.

Peace and thanks again for a great post,


Sandra Leesmith said...

JULIE, I was teasing because that coffee just sounds so good. I'm staring at it and thinking I might have to go buy another package. LOL For me.

The winner is getting both. :)

And pickleball is crazy fun. Very addictive so don't start unless you want to really play. Really its the people that make it fun.

Sandra Leesmith said...

MARILYN your trip sounds like a blast. I would wager that a story idea or two will pop up there. That is how I ended up with CURRENT OF LOVE. Hubby and I were on a steamboat cruise up the Mississippi and I had a blast interviewing the crew.

Have a wonderful time.

Clari Dees said...

Loving all the comments! Vince and Winston Churchill -- Now there's a pair to hang around with! :-)

I'm definitely in the "telling" camp today. I've been working on a synopsis. ;-)

Congratulations to all our friends who finaled! Woo Hoo! So much fun to recognize names.

The best Indian fry bread I ever tasted was on a Navajo reservation where we taught a week-long Bible camp for the children. The Navajo women served us a special meal and we watched them make the fry bread. Best. Meal. Ever!

Sandra Leesmith said...

HI CLARI, Yes, Vince and Winston. How much fun is that?

Best wishes on your synopsis. There's a great case for telling. smile

How wonderful that you were able to work on the reservation. I worked on it also and some of the women read the Dream Song manuscript to be sure I had the Navajo elements correct. I had to make some changes of course.

One of the changes was a scene where she was picturing the past and a woman standing with her hair blowing in the wind while waiting for her hunter lover. I was informed that Navajo women didn't let their hair flow loose unless they were in mourning. LOL Not a romantic scene after all.

Mary Hicks said...

Vince, I HUG your neck! You are so brave to speak those words!:-D
I can enjoy a story with lots of telling every bit as much as showing.

If we throw out telling, that will include most of the great stories I grew up with!

'Meanwhile back at the ranch'... MaryC, I like that. I sat through toooo many shoot-um-ups with my dad!

That's still a good transition line

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi MARY H. You are so right. When we talk about show don't tell, we have to be careful not to throw out the baby with the bathwater. (Another idiom lol)

I think when the telling becomes annoying is when it drags the story. Telling has its place, but showing does also. I think great writers use both.

Now if I can only find that balance. And become great. smiling.

Jeanne T said...

Yes, Sandra, if I can get activities under control, I plan to write as much as possible before ACFW. I'm on the team that is planning our church's ladies retreat, which happens to be the weekend before ACFW. So, I'm praying for writing time and putting anything that's not absolutely necessary off until the latter part of September. :)

Marilyn Baxter said...

Miss Alabama traveled to the Miss America pageant and spent the first day trying to get to know the other contestants. She approached one woman, smiled and asked, "Where are you from?" The blonde smirked. "I'm from a place where we don't end our sentences with a preposition." Miss Alabama thought for a moment, and then she said, "Well, okay. Where are you from, shrew?" Only the version I heard didn't use the word shrew.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi JEANNE, Sounds like a plan. The ACFW conference will be here before you know it.

Happy writing.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi MARILYN, You've been hanging around the Grammar Queen too long. LOL. Funny joke. And one that writers, editors and grammar teachers would think is soooo funny.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Marilyn Baxter, I'm dying laughing!!!!

Miss Alabama is my new BFF, LOL!

Oh my stars, that's so funny.

Does that ruin my reputation if I laugh out loud at that?????

Ducks head and slips away.

Cara Lynn James said...

Hey, Sandra! The style of writing has changed a lot since those books were first published. I like your new changes.

Too much telling and too much passive voice annoy me, but a little is fine. I know editors aren't always so tolerant of even a small amount of telling! I wonder if readers care as long as the story is interesting.

Sandra Leesmith said...

RUTHY, I can hear you laughing clear across the prairies and over the mountains. You funny girl.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi CARA, I don't think readers really pay that much attention to writing style. They care if they are interested or not. And we're the ones trying to analyze what makes it interesting.

Thanks for the compliment. I love revising.

Audra Harders said...

Show. Tell. Active. Passive.

So much to keep mind as we write!

I appreciate Marilyn's definition of passive voice. It nails the common irritation on the head : ) But whether we view Show vs Tell, or Active vs Passive as the proper rules to abide by, the number one thing we want to keep in mind is to carry the reader through the story as if they were living it.

I loved Love's Miracle, Sandra. Very deep and touching. I can't wait for Dream Song. Remastering "classic" works keeps them in the readers' mind and heart for a long time!!

Vince said...

Hi Tina, Mary, Mary, Marilyn, and Sandra:

TINA: I’m a big fan of Winston Churchill. He liked to write and speak in phrases that were highly quotable. I’m one of his followers.

MARY: you are right about showing and telling. There is good telling and bad telling. There is exciting telling and boring telling. It’s up to the writer to get it right. I’m reading a book right now and at the 36% mark there has been a lot of showing but almost no story movement. I don’t think I can read any more of this book. I’ll leave it for now and see if there is enough residual interest to call me back later.

MARY HICKS: thanks for the nice words. I’ve always been brave but that has not always produced good results. Brave and wise is best.

SANDRA: “We don’t want to edit out the gems along with the clichés.” How’s that. : )

MARILYN: MY MISS ALABAMA STORY: this may be the only time I ever get to tell my Miss Alabama story.

I was on the Grand Opening team for a new store in Alabama and I had to hire a local ad manager. Personnel called me and said they were sending Miss Alabama up to my office to interview for the job. I thought they were kidding.

Soon in walks the most beautiful woman I’d ever seen in person. I was frozen. How was I supposed to think with her in the room?

She was highly qualified and got the job but training time was short. So when I took her to lunch at a nice restaurant, I still had to use the time to continue her training. I spent most of the meal giving her instructions about marketing. After the waitress brought the bill, man after man got up, came over to our table, and wished her well on her new job.

I had not thought about this in years. Thanks Marilyn for bring up the subject.


Mary Vee said...

I am currently reading your book, Sandra and totally love it. This story is very captivating (a little play on words).
What I find especially well done is your use of show don't tell in this novel.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi AUDRA, Thanks girlfriend. I'm glad you enjoyed Love's MIracles. When I read a book I wrote it always amazes me that I wrote it.

And the process of publishing it was so much fun. I know you will enjoy that yourself.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Oh VINCE you have to give us a spew alert. That Miss Alabama story is priceless. You sure can tell she had all of the men's attention.

I love your idiom. Much better than mine. And more appropriate. Whoever invented that baby/bathwater saying anyway?

I'll remember that: Don't throw out I mean edit out the gems with the cliches. smile

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi MARY VEE. Now I'm wondering what book you are reading. Most of my later books are pretty active. But Love's MIracles has a lot of telling. Seems to work though. Go figure.

Thanks for the compliment.

Tina Radcliffe said...


Sandra Leesmith said...

It's bedtime for me.

Thanks everyone for joining us today.

Have a wonderful week.

Happy writing and revising.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Oh yes, be sure and check out the weekend edition for the winner of the Godiva chocolate raspberry coffee and the book of choice.

Again, thanks for joining us today.

Mary Preston said...

A very interesting post thank you!!

Sandra Leesmith said...

Thanks MARY P.

Happy writing.

Barbara Thompson said...

Very interesting post!! I like Cody the Coyote. Wish I had him for my great-nephew. Thank you for sharing.
Barbara Thompson