Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Show and Tell II

A million years ago, I posted about Showing vs. Telling. Consider this segment two.

In early February, Callie Kingston made a call for beta readers, and like a hungry lion, I latched on. Thus far, it has been the best writing step I've taken (aside from, you know, getting a Twitter account). When she sent me her first two chapters of critiques on My Sister's Memories, I sat there cringing. You should back down now, she's tearing your crap apart. As I looked at my computer screen, I realized that I needed to step up my game; not only with writing, but also with editing.

This is my "Oh crap, she might know more than I do face"
Worst. Picture. Ever. I hope you got a good laugh :)
While I had those You don't know what you're talking about, don't reject my writing moments (in private! Never to her e-mail face!), I took time away, came back to them, and found that most of the time, what she said was sadly correct. This gave me a profound respect for her, because she wasn't afraid of telling me what sounded weak, and it was what I needed to hear, even if I needed a shot of whiskey afterward.

One of the things she told me was the use of words like, "I saw," "I felt," "I wondered". She taught me ways to manipulate my sentences from telling you that I just saw my dog run across the street, to having my dog just run across the street. (Can you see the difference?)

Let me break it down for you a little more.

If you're writing in first person, you ARE the character. Which means (from my understanding) any time you're saying "I think, I feel, I see," it causes detachment. Try this instead:

Find the points where you use those statements. Delete them. Look at the sentence you have left. Does it still make sense? Chances are, it probably will, and now you're much closer to showing me something, rather than telling me.

I went through My Sister's Memories today and used the FIND tool to search the word "feel". Each sentence I deleted that stupid word (well, most sentences, not all), and replaced it with something better. "I feel his hand brush against my cheek," became, "His hand brushed against my cheek." It's an easy fix and you'd be amazed by how much stronger the writing sounds because you're just allowing things to flow  naturally. You're allowing the reader to be right there, getting goosebumps as his lips graze the soft spot on her shoulder...rather that just telling them what she's feeling.

Just thought I'd pass along some kick ass advice. Hope this helps.


  1. Great observations. Showing is so hard but awesome when we get it right.

    1. It always makes me uneasy. I'm so good at telling other writers they're telling me and not showing me...but with my own work, I'm alone in a forest...full of hungry and rabid bears...(wait, no...those are agents...and I'm on my couch, in sweatpants :) )


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