Friday, April 9, 2021

Show not tell - 3 steps to showing description

 

SHOW NOT TELL - that's what they tell us.

Grasping the approach isn’t as easy as the instruction. My first writing was all telling. Lines and lines of narrative filled the pages. That's the reason 'Music in the Kitchen' is still 'under the bed.'

As writers, we want people to remember out books. We work with words yet we need to paint pictures, offer photo-snaps, and create worlds. Details get the job done whether it is solidifying an overall theme or painting a momentary stage.

I remember three details from a book I read before I was ten years old. That’s almost six decades ago. Here they are. These details showed me the world of the book and the life of the character.

1) How to properly sweep the floor. (Use long, slow sweeps so as not to raise a dust cloud.)

2) It is possible to knit if you are blind. (Polly had to learn when her eyes were compromised.)

3) Polly for some reason is a nickname for Mary. (Who knew?)

 Woven into those details is the feeling of family, personal growth and survival. The remembered details provide a gateway to the overall effect the book had on me. And I remember the book with affection.

 Details used effectively can shift telling to showing and leave story images planted in the reader’s brain and soul.

How do you get the result you want? In other words how to get to ‘showing the story.’ Here’s a tip I learned years ago for changing telling generic detail into showing a multi-textured world.

     First, write your general thought. 

–“It was a dark and scary night.”

Second, describe what makes that statement true.

It was a dark and scary night. Clouds obscured the moon. The rain beat down like the tears of dead sailors and a banshee wind howled, obliterating any hope of comfort. Shadows deeper than the darkness lurked ready to suck a man’s soul from his bones.

 Third: Go back and take out the first sentence.

It was a dark and scary night. “Clouds obscured the moon. The rain beat down like the tears of dead sailors and a banshee wind howled, obliterating any hope of comfort. Shadows deeper than the darkness lurked ready to suck a man’s soul from his bones.

 

And one, two, three-you are showing not telling.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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