Monday, February 7, 2011

Not So Guest Post: Show, Don't Tell

We are writers.

We tell stories.

We want our readers to get so hooked, they feel sad when the writing is over.

But how do we do that?

I wrote a post about good writing a couple weeks ago, and there was some interest that I expand each point into a blog post of it's own.  I felt the best place to do that--to write about writing--was here, amongst writers.

My first post then is about SHOWING instead of telling.

Quite a few of you already do this. 

The idea is that you use imagery and sensory words instead of telling words. Find verbs that are descriptive rather than explanatory.  Tell HOW something is being done.  Show us the scene.

What's that?  You would like an example?  Well Ok.

So I hate Wal-Mart and about a month ago I had a crappy experience there (surprise, surprise).  I chose to blog about it.  But I didn't want to just go on a rant about Wal-Mart and it's crappy customer service, I wanted you to FEEL like you were there with me.

So I wrote about what I saw, smelled, heard, felt (both with touch and with my emotions), saw, and tasted (ok, I didn't really taste anything in this post, but you get the idea).

I took you to Wal-Mart with me.

When you are creating a scene--be it fiction or memoir--you want your reader there with you.  This will get your reader invested in the action.

I tend to close my eyes and visualize everything about the scene.  I start with each sense:

What do I see?
What do I smell?
What do I hear?
What do I feel with my hands/feet/etc?
What do I feel in my heart?
What do I think?
What do I taste?

I don't always use EVERY one of these questions because then my post would get long and ridiculous and boring.  No one wants to read ALL description.

I just pick the things that are absolutely necessary for you to "see" the scene and for you to "feel" what I need you to feel.

I write mostly memoir-ish pieces.  I can remember these things.  But when I do dabble in fiction, I have to become part of the scene to do this.  If I don't put myself in it?  It is not believable.

If you SHOW, your readers will feel connected.  If they feel connected, they will return for more of that connection.

Other writers 'round these parts who do SHOW don't tell well?

And those are just off the top of my head...MANY of you do this well!

No matter what kind of writing you do--fiction or non--you want your reader to FEEL what you are trying to convey.

Stories that show are far more likely to stick in someone's memory and stay in their heart.

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