Friday, October 05, 2007

Show me, don't tell me!

While thinking of what to write, I tried to sort through my jumble of thoughts and I remembered a time when I went to church early. I sat in my car in the shade and enjoyed the warm weather. The light breeze fanned my cheeks, and the leaves on the tress waved with the wind as birds flew from one branch to the other. I closed my eyes and was content even when the hum of cars and trucks passed through the church’s parking lot. When families descended from their vehicles, cheerful chatter floated through the air and quick laugher accompanied, causing me to smile. The morning was very peaceful, and relaxed me considerably.

Then I realized…if I wrote down everything I heard and saw (just like I did), I would be showing you. Could you see most of what I did without actually being there? Did I SHOW you through words what I saw? There is a difference between showing and telling. I’m sure a lot of you authors will be able to explain this better than I can, but I’ll give it a whirl.

From what I’ve learned, there are a few phrases that point to telling. Example: She walked outside and looked at the tree and saw a flock of birds perched on the branches and heard their morning song. The ‘telling’ phrases in this sentence are she looked, saw, and heard. Instead of telling me what she saw, just show me. Example: She walked outside and breathed in the fresh morning’s air. A flock of birds perched in the tree, chirping a cheerful tune. So maybe that wasn’t the greatest example, but it did SHOW you what was going on instead of telling.

Watch out of those telling words: he/she saw, he/she heard, he/she felt. Felt is a big one I see used all the time. Example: She felt the raindrops on her face. Take out ‘felt’ and rewrite the sentence. Example: Raindrops fell on her face when she stepped outside on the back porch as a gust of wind hit her head on. Once again, probably not the best example you’ll find, but it gets the point across.

This month when you’re writing, try to watch for those telling phrases, and make it a goal to SHOW your story, instead.


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