For Part 1 on “Show, Don’t Tell” please step
into my Magic Mirror right here.
For example, today I finished reading a MG novel, Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu, published by Walden Pond Press in 2011. One of the best things about this book is that I became immersed in WHAT IS HAPPENING IN THE STORY NOW. I wasn’t reading ABOUT the events of the story. I was in that story moving and listening, hearing and feeling alongside the MC, Hazel.
Ursu didn’t TELL me a story about Hazel. She created a world and dropped me and Hazel in the middle of it. Ursu enabled me to see, hear and feel along with Hazel.
Edelstein says effective fiction writing shows rather than tells, reveals rather than explains, evokes an experience rather than sum up what happened. How does a writer do that? By allowing the reader to experience and discover the information the reader would see, hear, feel for himself if he were living in that story world. (Chapter 42, page 102)
Browne and King say that SHOWING writers create scenes that allow the reader to “watch events as they unfold”. They allow readers to experience what is happening while it is happening rather than have the writer describe what happened after the fact.
Here’s an example (remember, I write for children.)
Tom was a weird little duck. So weird the other ducklings didn’t even want to play with him. They didn’t even want to paddle down the same side of the creek as Tom.
Here I have TOLD you that Tom is a weird duck. Then I backed that up by TELLING you how the other ducks treat him.
Let me try a rewrite of that: (Be merciful; this is a five-minute rewrite!)
Tom paddled into the reeds. He tried to be as still as a stone. Maybe the others wouldn’t find his hiding place. He peeked through the cattails. Tim, Tony, Tanya, Tad and Tucker were all swimming on the far side of the creek. Tom heard them laughing.
“I’m sure glad that weirdo Tom isn’t around. I don’t even like to swim on the same side of the creek as he does,” Tad said.
“That’s right. He does some strange things!” Tonya said. “Did you see him trying to catch bugs with his feet?”
All of the other ducklings nodded in agreement.
In this version did I TELL you anything about Tom? Or did I SHOW you how he feels by SHOWING you what he does and thinks and says? Did I TELL you what the other ducklings think of him? Or did I let you eavesdrop on the comments the other ducklings made about Tom?
See the difference? Now YOU try it with one of your stories. Please let me know in the comments how it turns out. Thanks.