Show Me Don’t Tell Me

I’ve learned a lot since I had my first book published. The writing journey is an amazing one. When writers decide to buckle down and finish that first manuscript, reality hits. It’s hard. And it’s a lot of work. There’s all these rules you don’t know about until your work gets in front of an agent or editor or you join a writing group.

When I joined ACFW, a Christian writing group, my eyes were opened to a whole new universe. They had lots of workshops and online classes to help strengthen my work. That’s when I started to hear the buzz about showing versus telling in writing. My first instinct was to check out some of the best sellers out there to see how they did it. I was surprised by the impact a book had when the author showed their story.

Always show instead of tell to bring your story alive. Here are some examples to give you a clear idea what the difference is between the two.

  • Telling: She was mad.
  • Showing: Kira reared back and put her hands on her hips.

  • Telling: He felt upset.
  • Showing: He closed his eyes and lowered his head into his hands.

  • Telling: Embarrassment ran through Sabrina.
  • Showing: Heat climbed up Sabrina’s face and her shoulders slumped.

‘Was’ is a very common word that will tell instead of show. Erase that word too when at all possible.

Odds are if you have to use the word ‘felt’, you’re probably telling and not showing in most cases. So go back through those manuscripts and annihilate that word. Work on the best way to show your characters’ feelings through actions.

Telling an emotion, as in the third example, is a good sign you need to rework a sentence.

Once you’ve taken the time to turn your telling into action, your book will come alive to your readers. It adds a whole new dimension to your story and keeps readers turning the pages. What are some common ‘telling’ words you find yourself using? Send them to me. I’d love to hear from you.

Think Outside the Box Literally

I’ve been boxing up my house for weeks now. We’re about to move so boxes are in abundance around here. They’re lining the wall of my closet, my office, the garage. Every bedroom is packed and almost ready to go when the big day arrives. So seeing all this cardboard has given me an idea.

Sometimes in my writing I get snagged. I need to come up with a place and mood for the next scene, and nothing comes to me. Or I can’t picture how my characters are interacting with their environment.

Here’s where the box comes into play. What if I filled a box with items that’ll help me create the next scene? If I rummage through the box without looking, and pull a designated number of items out I can build the next section of my plot in an interesting way. You can employ the same idea with your work in progress too.

To start, you could fill it with pictures of places. Get your hands on:

  • Old magazines
  • Pictures of your vacations
  • Newspaper clippings

Add different objects to symbolize the weather. How about:

      • Cotton balls for clouds
      • A bottle of water for rain
      • A tennis ball for sun
      • Sunglasses to represent heat
      • Scarf shows that it’s cold 

And don’t forget one important sense that gets left out of writing a lot-smell. What about adding:

          • Potpourri sachet
          • Cologne bottle                  
          • Scented candles         
          • A banana peel in a bag to represent a bad smell

    Now you’ve got all the essential elements to get back on track, and you did it in a creative way. You could even take it a step further if you already know where you want the scene to occur, but you don’t know how to set it up. If you know you want the scene to be in the kitchen then what about putting kitchen items in the box? If an item gets pulled out, make the characters have to use the item. What about:

    • A rolling pin- It could be a dangerous utensil in a suspense
    • A pressure cooker- It’s comic what can happen when not locked properly or heated too high
    • A pitcher- tea anyone?
    • Apron- Is your male character only able to find a hot pink apron so he won’t mess up his suit?

    It’s fun to find new ways to brainstorm and develop your plot. Think outside the box literally and have a great time creating your next setting.

    Research In Kooky Places for Good Ideas

    I’m getting ready to start a new novella with my critiquing group on fairy tales with a twist. When one of my partners suggested the idea, I was unsure at first. Then before I knew it, my mind was whirling with all kinds of scenarios.

    I loved the idea of writing a novella about the old lady in the shoe. She had lots of kids. I have lots of kids. It would be so easy to relate to the protagonist. But then one of my other friends was quick to point out that the story was a nursery rhyme. Too bad. I’m glad though that she said something to me about it.

    I got back on track, and decided to go to the library and check out some books on classic fairy tales. Wouldn’t it be interesting to write about an old fable that not many people today know about, one that hasn’t been overdone on television?

    The hard part came when deciding which tale to spin off of. Should I do The Princess and the Pea? What about The Little Match Girl?

    I went to the library to start my research. Of course, I’m sure you’d think of checking out books in the juvenile section for fairy tales, but it got me thinking. Non traditional places to find writing ideas could come from many different places. Would you search through picture books to generate an idea? What about looking in interior design magazines like House Beautiful( a personal favorite of mine)? Couldn’t a living room in that magazine inspire a scene in your next manuscript? What about pictures in art galleries and coffee houses created by local artists? What about the Chik Fil A cow who was dancing around the restaurant you ate dinner at? What’s his real life like?

    Start looking around you. Consider the most non-conventional places to build your creativity and let your next great novel take off from there. You’ll have that diamond in the rough that’s so different from any other story.

    Writer of Killer Romance and Encourager to Fellow Christians