Has anyone ever told you to “show, don’t tell”? Or has anyone ever said your writing is passive and you need to make it active? These are common areas of concern for most writers, yes, even seasoned writers.
The reading audience today is much more sophisticated because they have been exposed to outstanding authors who are continually refining their craft. Not only that, they are super busy and don’t want to waste their time frittering around in what used to be called “purple prose” or “flowery writing”. They want action. They want the hero and heroine to get down to business. And they want it direct and to the point.
So how do we accomplish that?
My critique partner has a keen eye for the “show/don’t tell” writing and calls me to it constantly. You would think I would learn, but honestly, I see the action in my head so think I’m writing it on paper. But in reality, I’m telling the story. She is constantly putting in the margin the words “show don’t tell.”
Any of you experienced that?
After all of these years of writing, I know what she means. But when I was starting out, I was very puzzled. What do you mean? What are you talking about?
In case you are in that stage of the writing process, I recommend you read the other posts on Show Don’t Tell from our archives. Click here and the second and third post are two that I wrote earlier that explain the basics.
In this post, I’m going to go through and bring out samples of some of the more subtle forms from my last two works in progress and show you what I did. I will put the original version in italics and the revised version in regular red print.
It is easier to grasp the concept when you see the changes. It’s easier to show you rather than tell you. Okay-bad pun. LOL But I think this will help you. When you are finished reading the other articles and these examples, go to your work in progress and find similar examples and change them from “telling” to “showing.” It would help other writers if we could read your examples also.
Please feel free to “show” us ways you have changed your wip to provide more action by showing instead of telling. Those who do will be placed in a drawing for a ten page critique of their wip.
Readers, you might have seen some great examples of showing instead of telling. Share those with us and be in a drawing for a Seeker eBook that is currently available.
Read through these examples. You might even think of better ways to “show.” And while you are reading, please enjoy a cup of coffee or hot chocolate with the snickerdoodle cookies I baked this morning.
Relieved that he had changed the subject, she cast him a smile.
Relieved that he had changed the subject, she smiled.
“There’s hiking trails in those mountains. Her son said she loved to hike.” Brian had heard Al and Trudy talk about the trails they had taken with their hiking club into the nearby Cuyamaca Mountains. Maybe he could call them and arrange to go with them on one of their outings.”
“There’s hiking trails in those mountains. Her son said she loved to hike.” Brian’s enthusiasm sparked. “My friends, Al and Trudy, talk about the trails they’ve taken with their hiking club into the Cuyamaca Mountains. Maybe I should call them and arrange to go with them on one of their outings.”
The cool drops of rain contrasted with the hot and humid air.
The cool rain drops splashed down through the hot and humid air.
Water lapped against the makeshift dam. Geri ignored her sopping boots and the blisters forming on her hands. She continued to shovel fast.
Water lapped against the makeshift dam. Ignoring her sopping boots and the blisters forming on her hands, she continued to shovel fast.
In no time the boy had made both of them a sandwich. After he ate half of his, he stopped and made a couple for Mark. “He’ll be hungry when he gets back,” Conner explained.
After the boy had made both of them a sandwich, he ate half of his, then he stopped and made a couple for Mark. “He’ll be hungry when he gets back.”
His gaze traveled from the stunning cliffs accented by the green juniper and pine to the washed-out creek bed. Danger lurked in the seeming pastoral beauty.
He gazed from the stunning cliffs accented by the green juniper and pine to the washed-out creek bed. Danger lurked in the seemingly pastoral beauty.
She searched the base of the dome, wishing Mark would round the corner.
Searching the base of the dome, she wished Mark would round the corner.
Adrenalin spurred him onward as he kept up with Geri.
Adrenalin spurred him onward to keep up with Geri.
“Conner! Don’t move!” Geri screamed, drew her pistol and charged the cougar. Shooting into the air, the sound of shots bounced and echoed against the red rock walls. The cougar froze.
“Conner! Don’t move!” Geri screamed, drawing her pistol and charging the cougar. She shot into the air, the sound of shots bouncing and echoing against the red rock walls. The cougar froze.
Relief mingled with concern showed in both Mark’s and Conner’s faces.
Relief mingled with concern glowed in both their faces.
Geri’s laughter rippled through him, as he followed his nephew into the small, but tidy room.
Geri’s laughter rippling through him, he followed his nephew into the small, but tidy room.
Mark sighed with pleasure, as the heat penetrated muscles he’d forgotten he had.
Mark sighed with pleasure, heat penetrating muscles he’d forgotten he had.
He leaned across the table, and traced his thumb along the white line. He licked his finger, tasting the flour and her.
Leaning across the table, he traced his thumb along the white line and licked his finger, tasting the flour and her.
I hope these helped. Be sure and check out the previous posts also for more detailed information.