Don't Tell Me, Show Me!
I had no idea how many "rules" there were for writing, until after I wrote my first book, Grasping Hope. I had sent sample chapters to critique partners who commented I was "telling" rather than "showing". I hadn't heard of that term so I did some research, bought a few books and studied up. "Show, don't tell" is something many authors struggle with, even the seasoned ones.
Here's an example of telling:
"She ran to her car through the pouring rain which quickly soaked her through to her skin. She got into her car and slammed the door, frustrated that she had forgone her umbrella."
There's nothing wrong with that sentence, per se, but it's not demonstrative. It's kind of boring. There are different ways to write this with more show, but here's one example:
"Biting rain pelted Lauren sideways as she dashed to her car, the droplets cold on her bare arms. She lept over a large puddle by her front tire and opened the door, just a crack, squeezing into the driver's seat. Water trickled down her face and dripped onto her lap. She shivered and turned the key in the ignition, then turned the heat to high, positioning the air vents directly toward her.
A glance in the rearview mirror confirmed she looked like a drowned rat. She had fifteen minutes to get across town to her meeting and make herself look presentable. Why had she left her umbrella behind, today of all days?"
Which of the two draws you in more? The first one simply tells you how she felt, while the second example shows you. The second one is more involved and takes more time to write. It's more impactful and resonates with the reader.
As I picked over my rough draft, changing my tells to shows, it got me thinking...so it is with life.
Talking is easy, fast, and doesn't require a whole lot of effort compared to doing. Our words are important and should be chosen carefully, but as the saying goes, "Actions speak louder."
As a parent, I realize what I do has a greater impact on my children than what I say. Our actions either underline or undermine our words. (Tweet That)
In other words, how you live your life will either back up your words or diminish them. We all know people who talk a good game but don't follow through. They're all talk, no action, and after a while, you realize you can't count on them.
Have you ever read a book that had chapter after chapter of only dialogue? Your eyes would glaze over. You need to break it up with description, back story, action scenes and "beats"— little phrases peppered into the dialogue to add interest and give you a sense of what the characters are doing.
"That's a great color on you." His smile revealed a dimple in his left cheek.
She looked down at her blue dress and smoothed the front before returning his gaze. "Thank you."
I hope I am a woman who speaks life-affirming words, but more importantly, I strive to back up those words with acts of service. I want to be someone who doesn't merely say "I love you," but shows it. A person who doesn't merely promise but proves, doesn't tell everyone her dreams but works to make them happen. Sometimes I succeed, sometimes I do not.
The ultimate example of love in action, I think, is Jesus Christ. He started his ministry around the age of 30, about three years before his death. During those three years, he was a traveling preacher and performed many miracles. His words are today, as they were then, challenging, inspiring and often times difficult.
What would have become of his ministry had he died of old age after years of preaching? We'll never know but I don't believe Christianity would be the world's largest religion. What makes Jesus so compelling?
He followed through with his words, "Greater love has no one than this, than to lay one's life down for his friends." (John 15:13). Everything Jesus said, he backed up. He willingly gave up his life, without a fight, and three days later, just as he said he would, he raised himself from the dead. He also said he's coming back and I, for one, take him at his word because his track record is flawless.
On that note, I will pore over my manuscript, again, for another round of revisions and rewrite my "tells" to "shows." I'll do the same thing with this story of my life, too.
God bless you, BIG TIME,