Writing Wednesday (7) - Show Don't Tell

Disclaimer: I'm not an author nor am I an editor or any kind of expert. I only can share my aspiring adventures with you, but I do hope, it'll help many other aspiring writers and we can go along the road together. :)

After reading Ashley's review, I'm still in a bit of a shock. The book she reviewed was about literally narrated through the story without a jitty of 'show', making it so monotone as a desert during summer. She even quoted from it and what was written there, I could hardly believe. Head over, read it for yourself, I will wait here, and then we can discuss.

Ready? Pretty wow, isn't it? Not in the positive way though. The reason why I'm so all-over it is that it's the all-time number one principle of writing and not because some self-proclaimed important person once came up with it to make authors' lives even harder, but because without it writing simple cannot work. It will be incredibly dull and as you can see, most likely DNF. Another reason for my fuming, just a marginal thought, is that it's so hard to get published nowadays, authors constantly talk about not getting disheartened if we get rejected one time, two times, ten times...And books like this, are published and not by any publicity, but by an imprint of one of the great six. (Highest quality, hmmm?)

So the point is, you definitely want to avoid this mistake, and you can because it's not at all that difficult. It can be tricky, but undoubtedly doable. Of course, there are levels, sometimes there is only a little tell and just very critical literal people notice it, but believe me, you want to go through their sifter as well. Let's start with an easy example.

She felt anger and went to attack her assailant. She punched him in the guts and then kneed him in the           groin. The man collapsed onto the ground, holding the hurting part and she felt relief and triumph. She           didn't have too much time for celebrating the score though; she had to get away. So she ran.

Heat crept into her face and her vision was clouded with sizzling red. Crying out, she darted forward to         punch the towering, black-clad stranger before her in the guts and then brought up her right knee to finish       off the charge. The assailor didn't give out much of a noise as he collapsed onto the ground, clutching his       hurting part, but the pain was visible on his sweaty face. Layla's legs felt like jelly as she drew back,               almost falling herself, but the high of the successful defeat and the sudden urge to get away kept her                astood. Glancing back once more, she started out into the open street.

Which one did you like better? The second? Me, too. Not just it was more exciting and suspenseful, I also described the characters a bit without giving a separated paragraph for that purpose. So what did we learn? The man didn't give out much noise, even though he was in pain. He restricted himself for not seeming weak in front of a woman, the woman he was trying to...you know. As for Layla, I claimed her state after winning the fight and with this, you got to know some characteristics about her; she was a hot-headed person, a quick-thinker and not somebody who freezes in dangerous situations; she attacked intead of sobbing and pleading. Furthermore, she wasn't in complete shock after the assault and she could still think logically; she knew she had to go and preferably to a place where there is a lot of people.

Another tool of improving your 'showing' is using descriptions.Though it's varying for each individual how much of it you should implement, some is a pretty solid answer. So instead of writing: "The room was messy.", you could write: "The floor was littered with clothes, used tissues and containers of chinese take-away. The desk and shelves were in no better state; books and magazines lay everywhere." And we get the picture; the room is very, very untidy.

However, doing showing doesn't only consist of not telling. Okaay, that was a wird sentence, but I will explain it in no time. Even if you use  a lot of show and description, the writing can become dull after a while if there is no interaction, a.k.a dialogs:

She warned her friends not to touch the big red button.

"Don't touch that big red button." she warned, pointing at a bright spot on the consol.

The second one makes your writing live so don't skip it.

How did you like today's lesson? Was it useful or just meh?

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