Be a Better Writer--TELL, DON'T SHOW? WHAT?

These lessons, by one of our most consistent FaithWriters' Challenge Champions, should not be missed. So we're making a permanent home for them here.

Moderators: mikeedwards, glorybee

User avatar
glorybee
Moderator
Moderator
Posts: 2356
Joined: Thu Nov 10, 2005 11:46 pm
Location: Michigan

Re: Be a Better Writer--TELL, DON'T SHOW? WHAT?

Post by glorybee » Mon Feb 09, 2015 11:30 am

TracePezzali wrote:Hi

When she finally calmed down, Cassie knew she couldn't be annoyed at Jack. His venting was justified. Cassie knew she'd spoilt Ben and these were the results: A lazy self-absorbed immature fool wasted of his talents. She sank to the floor in grief and wished that she could repair previous mistakes. But of course, she couldn't. Dear God, how in my love I hated Ben into this!

Is this a 'telling' example? And if so, does it suitably work in this context - given that the rest of the story is focussed on seeing?
This is telling, and in this case, I think I'd prefer a bit more showing (sorry). I actually think the 'telling' in the first sentence is fine, but that sentences two and three might work better as thoughts. Something like this, maybe?

When she finally calmed down, Cassie knew she couldn't be annoyed at Jack. His venting is justified. We've spoiled Ben, and now he's a lazy, self-absorbed, immature fool. She sank to the floor in grief, wishing she could repair the past. Dear God, how in my love, I hated Ben into this!

You can see that a whittled away a few words, too--because that's what I do.

Here's the main thing, though--what you originally wrote is very good, and it definitely shows your promise as a writer. You're getting into the souls of your characters, and you're conveying those souls to your readers. Everything else is just polish.
Jan Ackerson -- Follow me, friend me, give me a wave!
http://www.superioreditingservice.com
Twitter: @janackerson1
Instagram: janackerson
Facebook: Jan Worgul Ackerson, Superior Editing Service, Jan Ackerson, writer

User avatar
DustBSH
Pencil 1 (1-49 Posts)
Pencil 1 (1-49 Posts)
Posts: 28
Joined: Tue Apr 01, 2014 9:28 am

Re: Be a Better Writer--TELL, DON'T SHOW? WHAT?

Post by DustBSH » Mon Feb 09, 2015 5:35 pm

I never really knew much about Telling vs Showing until I joined Faithwriters. In my natural state I tend to take off and ramble on. Now I have learned about showing, but I think I am at the stage where I try to do some showing in just about every sentence. Ha. I am just going overboard on the other side. It's going to take a lot of practice, as well as reading to get the right balance.
Inspiring lessons.

User avatar
TracePezzali
Pencil 1 (1-49 Posts)
Pencil 1 (1-49 Posts)
Posts: 45
Joined: Sun Oct 05, 2014 8:39 pm
Location: Perth, Western Australia

Re: Be a Better Writer--TELL, DON'T SHOW? WHAT?

Post by TracePezzali » Mon Feb 09, 2015 7:45 pm

Thanks Jan, your help's invaluable, and I've made those changes to the story, but now I'm thinking the father's voice may need to be internal dialogue as well! Argh! He does a lot of telling too:

It was terrifying how much a father could despise a son. If Jack were given to violence, his fists would have pulped Ben into a broken mess of blows. In despair, Jack looked down at his hands. These fists had taught his son how to hold a baseball, back when Ben had been beautiful and innocent.

At his wits’ end, Jack didn’t know what to do other than to push on with this ruthless discipline. He hadn’t shared in this responsibility when Ben was a lad. Jack had martyred his spare time with loads of work. It was noble, so he’d inwardly bragged, supporting his family, giving them all of this. Giving HIMSELF all of this.

In Ben’s bedroom, the way his son had looked at him… it had socked out the air in Jack’s lungs. That naked glaring hatred so perfectly reflected his own deadly gaze. But worse – as if there could be anything worse – this hatred targeted at HIM, had made Jack realise just how vile a man he was… how… despicable. He had become the sum of his hatred. What he’d named as love in himself, was conditional, hard in its rules and expectations.

Oh poor Ben, what have I done to you?
I feel yucky asking you again to look over something, but I'm itching for your opinion.
Trace Pezzali

"It is written: 'I believed; therefore I have spoken.' With that same spirit of faith we also believe and therefore speak... so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God." 2 Cor 4:13-15

User avatar
glorybee
Moderator
Moderator
Posts: 2356
Joined: Thu Nov 10, 2005 11:46 pm
Location: Michigan

Re: Be a Better Writer--TELL, DON'T SHOW? WHAT?

Post by glorybee » Mon Feb 09, 2015 8:03 pm

I like the first two paragraphs just fine. In the third one, I'd just change some of the narrative to thoughts, to make it more parallel to the changes you will have done in the wife's section. Something like this:

In Ben’s bedroom, the way his son had looked at him had socked out the air in Jack’s lungs. That naked glaring hatred so perfectly reflected his own deadly gaze. But even worse was this hatred targeted at HIM. I thought it was love, but it was rules and expectations. What a vile, despicable man I am. I am the sum of my own hatred.

What do you think?
Jan Ackerson -- Follow me, friend me, give me a wave!
http://www.superioreditingservice.com
Twitter: @janackerson1
Instagram: janackerson
Facebook: Jan Worgul Ackerson, Superior Editing Service, Jan Ackerson, writer

User avatar
TracePezzali
Pencil 1 (1-49 Posts)
Pencil 1 (1-49 Posts)
Posts: 45
Joined: Sun Oct 05, 2014 8:39 pm
Location: Perth, Western Australia

Re: Be a Better Writer--TELL, DON'T SHOW? WHAT?

Post by TracePezzali » Tue Feb 10, 2015 12:34 am

I think that suggestion really works. I've nutted out my own version:

In Ben's bedroom, the way his son had looked at him had socked the air out of Jack's lungs. That naked glaring hatred, which so perfectly reflected his own deadly gaze, was targeted at HIM. I'm vile... despicable. I've no idea how to love. All I give Ben are rules and expectations. I've become the sum of my hatred.
Last edited by TracePezzali on Tue Feb 10, 2015 1:23 am, edited 1 time in total.
Trace Pezzali

"It is written: 'I believed; therefore I have spoken.' With that same spirit of faith we also believe and therefore speak... so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God." 2 Cor 4:13-15

Kiki
Pencil 1 (1-49 Posts)
Pencil 1 (1-49 Posts)
Posts: 1
Joined: Fri Jun 05, 2015 2:40 pm

Re: Be a Better Writer--TELL, DON'T SHOW? WHAT?

Post by Kiki » Thu Jun 18, 2015 3:24 pm

Thank you for this information. I love writing but sometimes, I am too short and straight to the point with it...

User avatar
glorybee
Moderator
Moderator
Posts: 2356
Joined: Thu Nov 10, 2005 11:46 pm
Location: Michigan

Re: Be a Better Writer--TELL, DON'T SHOW? WHAT?

Post by glorybee » Thu Jun 18, 2015 3:37 pm

Kiki, thanks for stopping by. But remember--sometimes straight and to the point is GOOD. If that serves the purpose of your writing (whether its fiction or nonfiction), then by all means, be short and to the point.
Jan Ackerson -- Follow me, friend me, give me a wave!
http://www.superioreditingservice.com
Twitter: @janackerson1
Instagram: janackerson
Facebook: Jan Worgul Ackerson, Superior Editing Service, Jan Ackerson, writer

angela7225
Pencil 1 (1-49 Posts)
Pencil 1 (1-49 Posts)
Posts: 1
Joined: Thu Jun 25, 2015 3:42 pm

Re: Be a Better Writer--TELL, DON'T SHOW? WHAT?

Post by angela7225 » Mon Jun 29, 2015 12:55 pm

Excellent post Jan. i also believe tell kind of speeds up a piece. I wanted to find out from you, is still wrong to put a comma after but if you would want the reader to pause at that point in the sentence?

User avatar
glorybee
Moderator
Moderator
Posts: 2356
Joined: Thu Nov 10, 2005 11:46 pm
Location: Michigan

Re: Be a Better Writer--TELL, DON'T SHOW? WHAT?

Post by glorybee » Mon Jun 29, 2015 7:22 pm

angela7225 wrote:Excellent post Jan. i also believe tell kind of speeds up a piece. I wanted to find out from you, is still wrong to put a comma after but if you would want the reader to pause at that point in the sentence?
When I'm editing, 99 times out of 100 I will edit out a comma after a small conjunction. I don't believe that the pause after the conjunction adds anything to the meaning of the sentence. Take a look at these four very similar sentences:

1. I love chocolate, but I rarely buy it because U.S. chocolate has child slavery in its supply chain.

2. I love chocolate. But I rarely buy it because U.S. chocolate has child slavery in its supply chain.

3. I love chocolate. But, I rarely buy it because U.S. chocolate has child slavery in its supply chain.

4. I love chocolate, but, I rarely buy it because U.S. chocolate has child slavery in its supply chain.

These sentences all have the exact same meaning. The first one would be the best choice for a piece of formal writing. The second one would be fine for informal writing. The third has a pause after 'but', but that pause would probably not be there in speech, and the pause actually makes the reader stumble a bit. The fourth sentence has very poor flow, and reads like the writing of someone quite young or inexperienced.

If you'd like, feel free to post a sentence in which you'd be inclined to use a comma after 'but.' I'll be happy to give you my two cents worth.
Jan Ackerson -- Follow me, friend me, give me a wave!
http://www.superioreditingservice.com
Twitter: @janackerson1
Instagram: janackerson
Facebook: Jan Worgul Ackerson, Superior Editing Service, Jan Ackerson, writer

Francie
Pencil 1 (1-49 Posts)
Pencil 1 (1-49 Posts)
Posts: 19
Joined: Mon Mar 25, 2013 2:55 pm

Re: Be a Better Writer--TELL, DON'T SHOW? WHAT?

Post by Francie » Thu Jul 09, 2015 2:03 am

Hi Jan,
I love how good showing puts me in the moment. It takes a skillful writer to describe the actions and scene in such a way to allow the reader to see and feel as if they're actually there. Even so, I must say, a good telling is like a dear friend who comes close, throws their arm around my shoulder to share with me their story...what ever it might be. I find telling more personable and that it can set a tone sometimes more affectively than showing. So often I ask myself when I'm writing, "What narration would Morgan Freeman say here?" I just love his voice.
God Bless,
Francie

Isaiah54v4
Pencil 1 (1-49 Posts)
Pencil 1 (1-49 Posts)
Posts: 2
Joined: Thu Jul 09, 2015 7:05 pm

Re: Be a Better Writer--TELL, DON'T SHOW? WHAT?

Post by Isaiah54v4 » Sat Jul 11, 2015 1:53 pm

Hi Jan,

This was a great little lesson. I have a question for you. I recently wrote a short story and included the person's age, but I did make it relevant because the character was celebrating a birthday. However, it was not a milestone birthday. I just wanted to show her age. The character was elderly. Is that still okay? Or could I just left her age out since the background described her being a senior?

Thanks.
Julie

User avatar
glorybee
Moderator
Moderator
Posts: 2356
Joined: Thu Nov 10, 2005 11:46 pm
Location: Michigan

Re: Be a Better Writer--TELL, DON'T SHOW? WHAT?

Post by glorybee » Sat Jul 11, 2015 2:34 pm

When age is tied to a birthday, you should certainly tell what that age is.
Jan Ackerson -- Follow me, friend me, give me a wave!
http://www.superioreditingservice.com
Twitter: @janackerson1
Instagram: janackerson
Facebook: Jan Worgul Ackerson, Superior Editing Service, Jan Ackerson, writer

User avatar
Cinnamon Bear
Pencil 4 (150-199 Posts)
Pencil 4 (150-199 Posts)
Posts: 156
Joined: Fri Nov 03, 2006 12:35 am
Location: Massachusetts

Re: Be a Better Writer--TELL, DON'T SHOW? WHAT?

Post by Cinnamon Bear » Sat Jul 11, 2015 3:23 pm

Isaiah54v4 wrote:Or could I just left her age out since the background described her being a senior?
Hi, Julie. I have just one observation. I think stating the specific age is relevant, because there is nearly always a big difference between a sixty-five-year-old and a ninety-year-old. Yet both are classified as seniors. :)

Virginia Bliss (aka Cinnamon Bear)

Post Reply

Return to “Jan's Writing Basics”