Sunday, February 27, 2011

Show versus Tell

I've been doing a lot of editing for other wanna-be and published authors lately.  One of my chief complaints has been show the scene rather than tell it. I have posted a picture of my newest granddaughter eating a cupcake as an example for this lesson.

Telling the scene- Vanna snitched from the counter.She, my three year old granddaughter, is
eating a cupcake.

Now showing the scene-  "Yummy, Oma made cupcakes."  Vanna's arms stretched and stood up on tip toes until her fingertips touched the cupcake on Oma's high counter.  Oh yes, she wanted the freshly frosted contraband morsel.  She used one hand to brace herself on the counter extending her reach until her fingers grabbed her prize.  She looked left then right seeing if anyone was around before she lowered herself, ran to the table, and kneed her way up onto the chair with her trophy.  She took a bite savoring her sweet reward.

The explanation- Do you see the difference other than a whole lot more words?  Not once did I say she was three years old. I showed that she was small by having to get up on tiptoes, the counter was high, she had to brace herself against the counter to reach farther up to grab the cupcake, she kneed her way up into the chair.    You know she's not supposed to get it because she looks to see if someone is watching her. It involves you, as the reader, into the scene. It's her struggle to get the cupcake.  You walk through it every second.

This is an important element when writing your story.  A reader has to have a vested interest in what is going on with your characters.  If your reader does not, then your novel will be cast aside.  They need to know what's at stake, the process, and the reward.  They need to create a mental image of what the words are telling them...this is showing. 

Take a look at what you are writing today.  Can it be punched up a notch or two to make it a character driven novel?  Take any scene, are you showing or telling.  Every writer is a storyteller, but are you a storyshow-er?

Keep writing and loving the Lord.
Jo

1 comment:

Zan Marie said...

This is a perfect example, Jo. Thanks for the words and the pic! Adorable child!